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So you wanna write an advice column?

Snobbery author Joseph Epstein apparently thinks the American people need his help to liberate themselves from their self-delusions. I know you all think you want to write a book, he tells us — on the opinion pages of the New York Times, no less — but don't. "Keep it inside you, where it belongs."

It's amusing that he should feel it not just appropriate, but somehow desirable to tell some four-fifths of us how to live our personal lives, but it sure ain't much more than that. To the extent that this piece isn't laughable, it might be sort of right — anyone who would believe they should abandon their aspiration of writing a novel or longer piece of nonfiction because they read it in the paper could very well be better off for it anyway; it'll save them a lot of work. But Epstein isn't actually trying to help those people, much as it suits him to pretend like he is. If he were, he wouldn't dedicate so much of his precious space in the Times to belittling their endeavors, you'd hope.

No; Epstein's real intended audience can only be people like him, who are more serious or something, and who can cheer him on from the sidelines when he says he'd "like to use this space to do what I can to discourage them" (emphasis mine), those wretched mediocrities out in the world. He's having a good time, trying to impress his buddies — but what's funny is he's committing exactly the sin he's supposedly railing against.

I mean, his advice is useless, to both those who have only a whimsical, perhaps conceited interest in writing (who should go ahead and write anyway, if it'll make them happy — who's this guy to tell them not to?), and those who are genuinely motivated to work on it (whose motivation, if genuine, obviously wouldn't be swayed by some wiseass writing for popular consumption). He's produced — and published! — exactly what he says he wants to discourage: something absolutely worthless to you and me.

October 1, 2002 12:51 AM


Who do you think you are, Matt? Keep your opinions to yourself where they belong and stop spewing them all over this Web site.

Posted by Dave A on October 1, 2002 2:32 PM

I know, I've ruined it! Oh well; it was good while it lasted....

Posted by M on October 1, 2002 9:28 PM

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