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Men as Friends

From Cicero to Svevo to Cataldo

Foreword from Allen Frances, MD

Though these true stories began in a cultural climate of homophobia, much is written today about male misogyny, toxicity and incapacity for intimate friendship. Neither a cautionary tale nor a polemic, “Men as Friends” is more of a counter-factual about a variety of male friendships and a variety of men, A “coming of old age story”, it speaks to an audience of men who love or have loved men friends but are too embarrassed to say so. But in his saying so, Epstein opens the reader to the deep sadness of loss as well as the joy of acknowledgement and remembrance.

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Look Inside

Read through the first chapter of Men As Friends, including the Foreword by Allen Frances, MD. 

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About the Author

Irwin Epstein, PhD


Irwin Epstein, PhD – Professor Emeritus (City University of New York) enjoyed a half-century, award-winning international career as a health and mental health educator and researcher on topics ranging from neonatal abnormality and abortion decision-making in London to cancer patients experiencing “good death” in Hong Kong. A Fulbright senior scholar at the University of Wales (Cardiff) at age 30, his most recent plenary address in 2021 was to an international conference in Beijing and Hong Kong, and simultaneously translated from English into Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese for Zoom audiences elsewhere. The title “Practice research: a ‘virtue friendship’ with ever-changing definitions”, concerned the range of possible relationships between professional practitioners and academic researchers.  

Author and co-author of several research texts and innumerable research articles, he pioneered the multi-disciplinary “mining” of available clinical data (i.e, Clinical Data-Mining) by physicians, social workers, speech therapists and other allied health professionals in Australia and New Zealand. Based on this innovative research approach, he’s conducted CDM workshops in health and mental health settings and universities throughout the world. Currently, he is writing with colleagues in Hong Kong about the application and contribution of CDM methods to future clinical trials research in general.

In semi-retirement, as a devoted carer for his wife Fran—a retired social worker and courageous cancer battler—Epstein found himself writing a memoir about his most significant friendships with other men—men who played important roles over the course of his life in his own development as single father, husband, educator, scholar and most importantly as a human being.

A “coming of old-age” story? Perhaps. But raised in an uneducated, lower middle-class, Jewish home in previously unfashionable Brooklyn, by a racist, paranoid, homophobic father and a psychologically sensitive mother, Epstein was destined to become a sociologist (Ph.D., Columbia University, 1969) rather than an M.D.—his immigrant parents’ fantasy.

At age 5, in a misguided attempt at father-son intimacy, he was told that his father’s “worst fear” was that he would grow up to be a “homo”. He didn’t. But this memoir is not a story of heterosexual male triumphalism. It’s merely about friendship among men. 

Leaving home, Epstein was freed from the psychological torments that plagued  men like D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Mann who struggled mightily throughout their lives with their unresolved sexual attractions to other men. Without question and to our benefit, these two gifted writers of their generation, channeled their homophobic anxieties into great literature for which they ultimately achieved and deserved both literary fame and compassion. Instead of Lawrence and Mann, the stories in this book, pay homage to the writings on aging and friendship of the Roman statesman Cicero and of the Triestine Jew and modernist writer Italo Svevo who taught James Joyce Italian and served as Joyce’s model for Leopold Bloom.   

Eighty-five years old, and not claiming literary equivalency with any of the above, Epstein’s memoir simply claims to be a collection of tales of male friendship–some humorous and some tragic involving men of different races, religions and sexual orientations—men who gave and still give his life meaning. Sadly, all but one of the men whose stories are featured in this book are no longer alive. However, the telling of their stories is intended to give their lives meaning to those who didn’t know them. They involve love and loss as well as hope and renewal.

Unexpectedly, in writing Men as Friends, Epstein wondered about a few men with whom he had long, significant, professional and personal friendships but couldn’t really say he “loved”. And they probably couldn’t really love him. Why not? 

The answer to this seemingly simple but inherently complex question came to him in the writing. It will come to readers in the reading.  Quirky but not queer, the book is a testament to deep and lasting friendships among men and meant to be read by men as well as women who still value men. Happily for Epstein, his oldest male friend remains alive. They’ve remained loving friends since their teens. A Jewish sociologist whose parents wanted him to become a doctor and an Italian-American clinical psychologist whose parents wanted an engineer.  

The Reviews are in…


Sarah Jones, psychotherapist, author.

“Epstein's book is so vivid, so exquisite at times, that it feels more like observing Scorsese’s film, ‘My Voyage to Italy’ than reading a memoir. But his voyages go beyond Rome in time and space. Boyhood, family, friendships found and lost - the author's subjectivity takes us along on a deeply personal voyage. To this Australian reader, it is cinematographic in its colorful detail.”

Sarah Jones
psychotherapist, author.

Cynthia Hayes

“A raconteur of true grace and intelligence, Irwin Epstein shares his deep understanding of the human condition to bring new richness to the meaning of love and friendship.  A delightful read for any man or woman.”

Cynthia Hayes
author of The Big Ordeal: Understanding and Managing the Psychological Turmoil of Cancer.

Stuart Kirk

“Wonderfully candid, intriguing and beautiful.  The writing is superb, wit and insight impressive.”

Stuart Kirk
Professor Emeritus, UCLA, author of Revved.

Arthur Ostrove

“A meaningful and poignant collection of stories about male friendship, told with wit and perspicacity.  It helps one reach back into one’s own past re-evaluating relationships and events of deep significance.”

Arthur Ostrove

Benjamin Shepard

“Love knows no borders, neither does the author’s poetic sociological imagination.  We all need essential others.  No doubt friendship has changed. So have Aristotle’s notions of ‘Virtue Friendship’ in his reflective ‘comparative case study” of modern male friendships.  These meditations on meaning-making of an essential, structural axis of his life are well worth your consideration.  Read this book and be inspired."

Benjamin Shepard
PhD, LMSW, Professor of Social Work, City Tech/CUNY, author of Rebel Friendships

Michael J. Austin

A page-turner crafted by a skillful story-teller...a welcome invitation to peek under the tent in academia to view a lifetime of reflections on very revealing male friendships. Peppered with humor and the mind of a foodie, Epstein shares the exhilarating "highs" experienced by faculty colleagues, lifetime friends, and family members... and the regret-filled "lows" of two divorces and missed opportunities to say goodbye in the midst of deeply held friendships.”

Michael J. Austin
Mack Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, (ed) Social Justice and Social Work: Rediscovering a Core Value of the Profession.


Articles & Publications

Practice research: a “virtue friendship” with ever-changing definitions

June 20, 2022

Link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17525098.2022.2087292

My Love Affair with Practice-Research: A “Virtue Friendship” Based on Methodological Pluralism

March 23, 2022

Link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/10497315221083706

One Last Fandango Professor Por Favor? The Potential Contribution of Clinical Data-Mining to Randomized Clinical Trials

August 24, 2022

Keep in Touch

Email me at contact@irwinepstein.com to get in touch.