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By Joseph Epstein

Who invented the non-public essay? that's demanding to claim. the traditional Roman thinker and cynical strength dealer, Seneca? The sixteenth century French thinker Montaigne definitely introduced it to a top of perfection. there have been many nineteenth century masters, now not such a lot of after that.

Who is the best dwelling essayist writing in English? That calls for no debate in any respect. it really is surely Joseph Epstein. he's not in simple terms the simplest dwelling essayist; he's correct up there within the corporation of Seneca and Montaigne, yet one in all our personal, residing in our period and working with our pleasures and travails.

Epstein is penetrating. he's witty. He has a magic contact with phrases, that tough to outline yet instantly recognizable caliber referred to as kind. specifically, he's most unlikely to place down.

Epstein reads omnivorously and brings us the easiest of what he reads, passages that we'd by no means have stumbled on on our personal. How effortless it's this day, within the electronic age, drowning in emails and different ephemera, to omit the straightforward satisfaction of studying for no meant function. like all grasp essayist, besides the fact that, this one brings us greater than the shared event of a life of analyzing. He brings us himself, alternately scolding and fascinating, gleaming and deep, buoyant and unhappy, zany and clever, rebellious and conservative, bookworm and activities fan, shrewdpermanent and everyman, debunker and preservationist, deep into excessive tradition, deep into low tradition, curious, clean, and settled in his methods. this is often the good friend all of us want shall we have, the suitable, humane significant other who's thoroughly cozy in his personal human epidermis. Like Plutarch, he supplies us lifestyles educating by means of instance, yet with a wry smile and any such convinced hand that we infrequently observe the guide. it really is natural excitement.

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Example text

Suddenly the emphasis shifted; books acquired real value or, at any rate, were difficult to obtain. At least this is how it seemed in Switzerland. At the eleventh hour I sent my first major book orders from there and in this way was able to secure such irreplaceable items as Der blaue Reiter and Bachofen's Sage von Tanaquil, which could still be obtained from the publishers at that time. Well-so you may say-after exploring all these byways we should finally reach the wide highway of book acquisition, namely, the purchasing of books.

But I find it merciless and angst-generating. Now I have fallen back on the riposte: "No, these are the ones I have to read by the end of the month. I keep the others in my office," a reply that on the one hand suggests a sublime ergonomic strategy and on the other leads the visitor to hasten the moment of his departure. r "1 The contents ofsomeone's bookcase are part ofhis history, like an ancestralportrait. -ANATOLE BROYARD How to Organize a Public Library [11 BY UMBERTO ECO 1. The various catalogues must be housed as far apart as possible from one another.

One very cold February morning, a cab stopped outside the shop. I saw two men and a woman get out and come up the stairs. There was a good fire going in the fireplace, and it was quiet and warm inside. Ric was the only member of the trio I recognized, although the other man looked at me as though I should know him. But the woman! She wore the longest, most magnificent mink coat I had ever seen, the collar partially turned up about her head. When she spoke I backed away, but she stepped in and extended her hand to me.

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