Defending Joe Epstein
today at 1:05 pm
From now on, I will demand that everyone call me Master Dennis Byrne, to show due deference to my hard-earned master’s degree in urban affairs. Written correspondence not addressed to Dennis Byrne, M.S, B.A. will not be opened.
That’s because I’m adopting the same standards that a blizzard of elitist snowflakes are demanding be followed when referring to President-elect Joe Biden’s wife, Jill–if I might be allowed to use her first name without the necessary honorariums.
Whether Jill Biden must be addressed as Dr. Biden has roared unto the national consciousness after Joe Epstein, a prominent master essayist from Evanston wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined, “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.: Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic.”
Yes, comic. The essay was a well-deserved dagger into elite’s pretensions about their superiority. While woke progressives were figuratively pissing on statues of honored American heroes, they saw no irony in how they have taken unbridled umbrage at a valid viewpoint that they have falsely labeled misogynist. Yes, it has become hysterical, a word that damn well applies to the criticism.
Never mind that Epstein’s point was about the masturbatory requirement by anyone who insists that they be addressed by their college degree, of which Ms. Biden is but one and the most current and prominent example. I don’t know if Ms. Biden makes that demand herself, but the progressive elites sure have, to a ridiculous extent, deserving of parody and ridicule.
A prime example is Northwestern University where Epstein spent almost 30 years of his life bringing love of the word to countless students. Despite Epstein’s emeritus status at the school, the school issued a mealy-mouthed condemnation of his allegedly misogynistic” viewpoint, while scrubbing him from its website.
From her high horse, Susan Manning, chair of Northwestern’s English department, called the op-ed “noxious.” Epstein, she said, had published other essays that made faculty “livid.” Manning and the university apparently haven’t familiarized themselves with the rich literature describing the idea of a university. It’s not avoiding offense or making the faculty “livid.”
I haven’t read Manning, described in her biography as a dramaturge*, so I can’t compare her skills to Epstein’s. But I’ll put Epstein up against any essayist or writer in America. If I had Epstein’s mastery of the English language I would be able to adequately describe his high art.
He’s the best-selling author of many fine books, a contributor to numerous publications, a former editor of the magazine The American Scholar, and the recipient of the The National Humanities Medal, from the National Endowment for the Humanities.and the Ribalow Prize for Fiction for his Fabulous Small Jews.
I’m a long-time Epstein admirer, finding everything he writes to be intelligent and witty. He splashes stuff that makes the rest of us bellyache with doses of good humor and insight. I laugh out loud. And appreciate the here and now that surrounds us.
I don’t know him personally, but I feel like I know about him, as we grew up in the same neighborhood a few blocks north of Devon Ave. and west of Western Ave. He went to Boone School; I went to St. Timothy’s. He was a few years ahead of me, so I don’t know if we ever crossed paths.
But he’s an old white man and, worse, mostly conservative. Making him an appealing target for the progressive aristocrats and law-givers. His critics, perfectly skewered by the master, can huff and puff all they want, but I and his numerous fans will stand by him and anxiously await his next op-ed.
Meanwhile, check out these episodes of Seinfeld, back when we could make fun of the pompous and their titles.[embedded content] [embedded content]
*For all the deplorables out there, I have linked to the definition of “dramaturge” a word I had to look up.
Praise for Joe Epstein from The New Criterion: A look at Joseph Epstein’s work, the importance of reading, and the role of the critic:
For more than five decades as a critic and essayist, Joseph Epstein has been one of our most valuable and vociferous antidotes against puerile and invertebrate reviews, a smasher of hype and entrenched pieties among the literati, an arbiter with a bloodstained yardstick, a writer serious about his convictions and his comedy. With Ruskin and Arnold and Wilde, Epstein is a shining example of how essay writing and criticism aspire to equal footing with imaginative literature. The author of twenty-four books—his newest collection, A Literary Education, will be released in June—Epstein illustrates the necessary difference between disposition and argument and never confuses rhetoric with logic, or rationalization with reasoning. By turns cantankerous and comedic, traditional and irreverent, damning and praising, he writes sentences you want to remember. And that, in the last analysis, is the only measure of a writer.
Defenses of Epstein worth reading:
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