October 16, 2003


Interview: Joseph Epstein author of Fabulous Small Jews (Doug Wagner, 10/15/03, January Magazine)

In his essays, Epstein possesses a wealth of apt, obscure and effortless knowledge. In person, he is a man of anecdotes: conversation with him invariably anchored here and there by winsome, real life accounts. Indeed it seems nearly every story in this new collection has behind it an anecdote of equal charm.

"You can do in stories things that are above those in essays," says Epstein. "In essays and piecework, you are trying to make a point, whereas in stories you are not quite sure what the point is. T.S. Eliot once said of Henry James, 'He had a mind so fine no idea could violate it,' which, I think, is the ultimate compliment for an author. Stories are above ideas."

Ideas aside, Fabulous Small Jews is every bit as evocative as Epstein's bestselling nonfiction, if decidedly subtler in its approach. The world of the fictive may not be his customary stomping grounds, but Epstein apparently needs no map to navigate its passageways. In his own words, put forth in a past essay, "Life, like the show, must go on, even if one is forced to make half of it up."

It seems somehow unjust that the best essayist of his time should even be competent, never mind gifted, at fiction too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2003 9:58 AM
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