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Distant Intimacy: A Friendship in the Age of the Internet [Hardcover]

Frederic Raphael , Joseph Epstein
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 20.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

19 Feb 2013
This delightful book of writer-to-writer correspondence joins a full shelf of volumes in the genre, yet it is perhaps the first set of such letters ever transacted via the Internet. Also unusual, at least for correspondents in the twenty-first century, is that Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein have never met, nor even spoken to each other. But what is most rare about this book is the authors' abundant talent for entertaining their readers, as much when the topic is grave as when it is droll. Raphael and Epstein agree to embark on a year-long correspondence, but other rules are few. As the weeks progress, their friendship grows, and each inspires the other. Almost any topic, large or small, is considered: they write of schooling, parents, wives, children, literary tastes, enmities, delights, and beliefs. They discuss their professional lives as writers, their skills or want of them, respective experiences with editors, producers, and actors, and, in priceless passages scattered throughout the letters, they assess such celebrated figures as Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, Sontag/Leibowitz, Malcolm Gladwell, Harold Bloom, George Steiner, Harold Pinter, Isaiah Berlin, George Weidenfeld and Robert Gottlieb, among many others. Epstein and Raphael capture a year in their letters, but more, they invite us into an intimate world where literature, cinema, and art are keys to self-discovery and friendship.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (19 Feb 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300186940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300186949
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 538,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


""Distant Intimacy "is often wickedly entertaining, presenting as it does the rare spectacle of two clever and learned veterans of the literary wars letting it all hang out."--Ben Downing, "New Criterion"--Ben Downing "New Criterion "

About the Author

Frederic Raphael has written 22 novels, including 'The Glittering Prizes', made into a BBC television series, and several works of non-fiction. He is also an Oscar-winning screenwriter. He divides his time between London and Provence. Joseph Epstein is the author of more than 20 books, including Fred Astaire, published by Yale University Press, and most recently 'Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit'. He lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear. 1 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to this book. The idea seemed intriguing. Two distinguished literary men (one British, one American)discussing ideas and books by regular emails (they have never met or even spoken on the telephone). Unfortunately it's a dreadful book, with lots of recycled old jokes and very poor wordplay and puns. I have no idea why they thought it good enough to publish as a book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How sad 9 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an admirer of Joseph Epstein's essays, I was looking forward to this long (long) book of letters exchanged with Frederic Raphael, but oh dear, what a disappointment. The first 40 or so pages were fine - lots of bad jokes, some dazzling wordplay, enough cattiness to be amusing without being offensive. But then it all became sour and graceless and the wordplay was increasingly heavy-handed. There appears to be no modern writer that these two admire: not Seamus Heaney, not Ted Hughes, not anybody except, possibly, Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein. The effect is of two overgrown adolescents showing off, and I repent buying the book (an almost unheard-of reaction from a print addict like me). Don't bother, it's not worth the money.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A painful display of sour vanity 21 Jun 2013
By Sasha58
The persistent note of thwarted vanity here, the sour lack of any generosity of spirit, are bad enough, but even more painful is the constant effort to sound self-deprecating and modest, belied by the very fact of having deemed this correspondence worthy of publication. Neither man can disguise his inflated opinion of his own brilliance, even greatness: Epstein marvels at the sheer wonderfulness of his short stories, which are pedestrian and uninspired at best; Raphael refers in tones of hushed reverence to his merely competent television drama. And then there are the endless, wearying, tortuous wisecracks. Someone should have gone through the book and deleted all the parenthetical asides-- attempts at wit that are rarely witty enough to be diverting. One finishes this volume vaguely embarrassed for both authors: what it reveals about them is so different from what they imagine they are revealing. It's a huge shame, since many of their opinions of cultural figures of the time would seem wholly justified, and their learned analyses worthy of our respect, if their personalities didn't get in the way. Raphael in particular, for all his intelligence, seems to suffer from almost a form of mental illness: his vast self-consciousness is untouched by any trace of genuine self-awareness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Jolly good fun 15 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Two sharp mature men dish the dirt and share confidences across an ocean, never having actually met. The result is readable, funny, engaging, and worth the price of admission. I thought it was great.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CATHARSIS 16 April 2013
This is a year-long email correspondence between 2 first-class enfants terribles of the literary scene. Basically it's a totally unbridled hatchet-job on numerous leading figures of the world of arts. Practically everyone mentioned is ruthlessly drawn (without necessarily being hung first), quartered and hurled to the wolves---who won't find much meat left on the bones.
The pleasure for the reader is closely akin to that of seeing a traffic warden's pad of tickets (old-tech, I know) being reduced to confetti and sprinkled gently over his head; a half-eaten bag of chips tossed out the window of a slowly-moving vehicle being instantaneously retrieved by a passer-by and slammed back in (it can be done); any pettifogging dietary recommendation (you know what they are) being openly defied by your own gp; or an arbitrary "rule" of language being decried as "bollocks" by an obviously great writer.
Mind you, Messrs Raphael and Epstein go a lot further than that. I mean they really know how to be rude, offensive, unfair and just plain nasty. That is why I said "closely akin to" above, rather than "exactly". In short, the victims mostly don't deserve it. But the appeal to our worse selves---forget a punch-up in church, this is way more fun; sit back and get ready for a damn good belly-laugh! You can feel guilty later.

Douglas Wood
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