Joseph Epstein’s new book about snobbery[1] ends up being a book about Joseph Epstein, which is perfectly okay—provided one is Joseph Epstein. Another’s book about snobbery, displaying the author’s biography, his likes and dislikes, suspicions, affections, affectations, crotchets, would not guarantee against a reader’s strayed attention. There isn’t the slightest risk of this happening upon reading Epstein’s book, because he is perhaps the wittiest writer (working in his genre) alive, the funniest since Randall Jarrell.

Epstein sets out dutifully to tell us what a snob is—what he does, thinks (about nubile objects of snobbery), cultivates, disdains. He accomplishes this by conveying everything that Epstein is not. He is not ignorant, certainly not a Philistine, and he is perfectly capable, even...