Four years ago in Harper’s, Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn, The Fortress of  Solitude, and Gun, With Occasional Music, published a defense of “plagiarism” which was so sane and commonsensical that it was at once attacked as radical, subversive, and, perhaps, even blasphemous. Riffing on Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence, Lethem called his essay The Ecstasy of Influence (Doubleday, $27.95). He has now plagiarized his own title for this wonderful collection of essays, occasional pieces, odd bits, and, yes, riffs on everything from the novels of Phillip K. Dick, a lunatic encountered on the G train, and the music of Rick James to the joys and perils of the ten years he spent working in used-book stores while learning his craft – a time he seems also to have spent reading and thinking about everything under the sun.

The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc. (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307744500
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Vintage - October 2nd, 2012

I took Gossip (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25) on vacation but allocated it to my time slot of “playtime reading”; by the end of the first chapter, I had promoted it to the status of the  “thoughtful and enjoyable.” By the time I finished it, I had chosen four friends on my holiday gift list to whom I want to introduce Joseph Epstein, a wonderful essayist and former editor of Phi Beta Kappa’s journal, American Scholar, and certainly not a National Enquirer, scandal-loving kind of guy. Nevertheless, he unabashedly loves hearing and spreading dish, a practice he defends with his belief that even superior novelists, Jane Austen and Barbara Pym included, thrive on gossip to keep the reader involved and the world going round.  During his long career, Epstein has had an earful, out of which come some very funny anecdotes as well as insightful ruminations.  Describing his personal preferences in the gossip universe, he names “the items that feature the comedy of human behavior: the comedy, that is, of people trying to live up to their own probably too high pretensions.”

Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit Cover Image
ISBN: 9780618721948
Availability: Out of Print in This Format
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - November 29th, 2011

Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780547844596
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - November 27th, 2012

Gertrude, of course, is the most famous of the Steins. She set out to reinvent the English language and was the formidable center of a wide-ranging artistic circle.  Poets, novelists, painters, and others flocked to the Stein salon at 27 rue de Fleurus to meet and mingle. In Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories (Univ. of California, $45), Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True Latimer introduce Stein in her several public and private guises.

Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780520270022
Availability: Out of Print in This Format
Published: University of California Press - June 22nd, 2011

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