Best Essayist 21st Century

During my years as a newspaper books editor, I periodically made regional literary pilgrimages close to my Mobile, Alabama, home.

Its library (alas, since moved) was housed in a marvelous 1930 edifice that was a scaled-down version of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia statehouse.

Founded by the Jesuits in 1830, Spring Hill College was the first Catholic college in the Southeast.

One of my mini-jaunts was a night spent in the Thomas Byrne Memorial Library on Mobile’s Spring Hill College campus.

To say that I have been a fan ever since would be an understatement.

They are divided into thematic chapters on memoir, culture, the arts, education, language, magazines, and intellectuals.

Within these categories, the selections span an interesting array of subjects—old age, stand-up comics, contemporary poetry, intellectual freedom, the , the liberal arts, Walter Cronkite.

Epstein’s impatience with such things as student evaluations (“useless intrusions into university teaching by the political tumult of the 1960s”), political correctness, and declining standards will no doubt have old-school types cheering.

Unfortunately, some of these selections are too narrowly focused to hold much interest for those outside the ivory tower.

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