Envy

Malice that cannot speak its name, cold-blooded but secret hostility, impotent desire, hidden rancor and spite—all cluster at the center of envy. Envy clouds thought, writes Joseph Epstein, clobbers generosity, precludes any hope of serenity, and ends in shriveling the heart.

Envy
The Seven Deadly Sins
Joseph Epstein
The best-selling author of Snobbery offers a lively look at the deadly sin of envy

Malice that cannot speak its name, cold-blooded but secret hostility, impotent desire, hidden rancor and spite - all cluster at the center of envy. Envy clouds thought, writes Joseph Epstein, clobbers generosity, precludes any hope of serenity, and ends in shriveling the heart. Of the seven deadly sins, he concludes, only envy is no fun at all.

Writing in a conversational, erudite, self-deprecating style that wears its learning lightly, Epstein takes us on a stimulating tour of the many faces of envy. He considers what great thinkers - such as John Rawls, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche - have written about envy; distinguishes between envy, yearning, jealousy, resentment, and schadenfreude ("a hardy perennial in the weedy garden of sour emotions"); and catalogs the many things that are enviable, including wealth, beauty, power, talent, knowledge and wisdom, extraordinary good luck, and youth (or as the title of Epstein's chapter on youth has it, "The Young, God Damn Them"). He looks at resentment in academia, where envy is mixed with snobbery, stirred by impotence, and played out against a background of cosmic injustice; and he offers a brilliant reading of Othello as a play more driven by Iago's envy than Othello's jealousy. He reveals that envy has a strong touch of malice behind it—the envious want to destroy the happiness of others. He suggests that envy of the astonishing success of Jews in Germany and Austria may have lurked behind the virulent anti-Semitism of the Nazis.

As he proved in his best-selling Snobbery, Joseph Epstein has an unmatched ability to highlight our failings in a way that is thoughtful, provocative, and entertaining. If envy is no fun, Epstein's Envy is truly a joy to read.

"Diverting, high-toned amusement." - Publishers Weekly

"Epstein wields a nimble pen in this consideration of the 'most pervasive' mortal sin…. Though experiencing envy may be 'no fun at all,' under Epstein's guidance, this sin is pretty entertaining to contemplate in all its fine permutations…. Strangely comforting in its reassurance that the reader is not alone in being a petty SOB." - Kirkus Reviews

"Joseph Epstein has earned his reputation as one of our most respected men of letters through his mastery of the essay…. With Envy, we are back in familiar Epstein territory…. Delightful…entertaining and provocative." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Eternally fascinating to saint, sinner and everyone occupying the vast expanse between those two poles…penetrating and perspicacious…. Epstein's tone is as attractive as his judgment and analysis are sound." - San Francisco Chronicle

"Epstein writes elegant and eloquent prose, and his thinking is sharp…. Will make a fine addition to anyone's collection of witty and incisive thinking." - Philadelphia Inquirer

"The writing is superb and memorable, with eminently quotable quotes to serve as daily reminders not to be envious." - Library Journal

"Eptein deftly untangles jeolousy from envy, Othello from Iago, and Nietzsche from Schopenhauer while decoding an impressive universe of things enviable and revisiting the seeds of resentment that gave rise to anti-Semitism."- Elle

Joseph Epstein is the author of fifteen books, including Snobbery: The American Version, which was a New York Times Best Seller and Notable Book for 2002. He has also written roughly four hundred essays, stories, reviews, and articles in such publications as The New Yorker, Harper's, TLS, New Republic, Commentary, New York Review of Books, New York Times Magazine, and others. He was the editor of The American Scholar for over twenty years and has taught at Northwestern University.

144 pp.; 16 halftones; 5 x 7; 0-19-515812-1


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