Joseph Epstein

Stories by Joseph Epstein

  • Joseph Epstein On The American Spirit of Thrift

    Live within your means; waste not, want not; always put something aside for a rainy day—everyone of a certain age in America knows the litany of these platitudes about thrift. Banal though they may be, their banality does not make them less true. They are eminently sensible; barring cruel cataclysmic events—early death by accident or illness, worldwide economic depression—they tend to work. Those of us old enough to have had parents who lived through the Depression had the habits of thrift imbued in us along with an ingrained disbelief in life as limitless progress. We were instructed that life, like Greek plays, features peripeteia, or reversals of fortune. Prepare for it. Turn off the lights when you leave a room, finish the food on your plate, thoroughly squeeze the toothpaste tube, forget about the stretch limo.Because they feel wasteful, many are the things those of us who grew up in the aftermath of the Depression cannot do: buy the hundred-dollar bottle of wine, wear cashmere...
  • Bernie Madoff and the Jews

    The Madoff scandal plays to an ugly stereotype. But maybe there's a silver lining for his cultural cohort.
  • A Secret Good Place

    THAT STEAMY SUMMER IN 1968, AT THE LAST DEMO- cratic National Convention held in Chicago, the city acquired the reputation of Munich Midwest, a place where a proto-fascist could sit with a beer out on his back lawn decorated with pink plastic flamingos after a day of beating up hippies and despising blacks. Everyone will recall the unctuous Walter Cronkite, a man with a face only a nation could love, interviewing an out-of-control Mayor Richard J. Daley, a man with a face that during that convention a whole nation came to loathe. From the chamber-of-commerce perspective, the '68 gathering was less than a brilliant public-relations ploy. ...