Epstein, an academic, reflects on the value of male friendships in a work that blends memoir with social commentary.
The book begins with the author’s lament that “so much is written about male toxicity, predation, destructive aggression,” and “men’s incapacity to forge deep and lasting friendships with other men.” Epstein offers a counternarrative about the “Nice men. Good men. Imperfect men” with whom he has forged “loving and lasting relationships” across his 85 years. Having spent half a century engaged in academia (as a professor of social work at the City University of New York and the University of Michigan), the author, in his erudite writing style, introduces readers to philosophical musings on male bonding from figures including the ancient Roman statesman Cicero and the Italian Jewish novelist and playwright Italo Svevo. The real strength of the book is found in Epstein’s absorbing memoir, which is told through chapter-length vignettes centered around his male friends. The reader learns about the author’s lifelong love of neckties and about his friend Harold, who relished in retelling the story of Epstein’s necktie once falling into his clam chowder. Another chapter focuses on a pair of Black friends from the deep South, one of whom, Bogart, was a doctoral student of the author’s before becoming his dean at CUNY years later. Perhaps most poignantly, the author, a straight man, describes how he overcame his father’s deep-seated homophobia. Far too many men, he argues, lose out on valuable friendships by denying themselves brotherly “intimacy with other men and resist naming it love.” As an author of textbooks and research studies, Epstein emphasizes that this work is an “uncharacteristic, non-academic book” and that those looking for bibliographic citations or scholarly analysis will be disappointed. As a memoir, however, it is a timely reminder that true friendship is an essential component of human happiness.
An absorbing remembrance and commentary on the importance of friendship among men