Are You a Golden Juggler?

Some people are born to lift heavy weights, some are born to juggle with golden balls, says Joseph Epstein:

The golden jugglers are the ones with wit, the ability to pierce pretension, and the calm detachment to mock large ideas and salvationist schemes. They eschew anger and love small perfections. They go in for handsome gestures…have wide sympathies, and understand that a complex point of view is worth more than any number of opinions.

That’s from Epstein’s latest essay collection called In a Cardboard Belt! via a Claremont Review of Books review. The late Bill Buckley called Epstein the wittiest writer alive.

Other Epstein nuggets found in the review:

  • “Charm is the desire to delight, light-handedly executed.”
  • “Writing cannot be taught, but it can be learned.”
  • On how to act now that he’s 70 years old: “If the game is to be played decently at seventy, one must hark back as little as possible to the (inevitably golden) days of one’s youth, no matter how truly golden they seem…Start talking about thenadays and one soon finds one’s intellectual motor has shifted into full crank, with everything about nowadays dreary, third rate, and decline and fallish. A big mistake. The reason old people think the world is going to hell, Santayana says, is because they believe that, without them in it, which will soon enough be the case, how good really can it be?”
4 comments on “Are You a Golden Juggler?
  • Although I was amused by Epstein’s evisceration of Susan Sontag’s literary reputation in his essay, The Culture of Celebrity, I didn’t think it was a very “handsome gesture” when he dismissed Ahmet Ertegun as one of those inconsequential persons who are well-known for being well-known.

    Ahmet was a cultured, exceedingly charming man who was respected and admired by those who knew him. It’s absurd to include him in a list of “airheads” who have accomplished nothing of significance.

    Co-founding Atlantic Records, nurturing the development of soul music, and signing a constellation of music acts– from Aretha Franklin to Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones– are not unimportant achievements in the context of our culture.

    If “writers are supposed to be aristocrats of the spirit”, as Epstein so trenchantly put it, I’d say he fell well short of the mark.

  • The good memories linger; so the geezers pine for old times. The irksome present (with pains of old age, sickness and violent society around) certainly gives them a feeling they’ve seen the best. I don’t think they dislike the *nowadays* because “they are no longer going to be in it”.

    That Santayana quote endorsed by Epstein sounds silly.

  • I’ll be honest. I’m still trying to find out if being a ‘golden juggler’ is something worth striving for.

    Then again, I’m probably born to lift heavy weights, which was probably meant as an insult, but which I take as a compliment.

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