A magazine I used to read once ran a competition for creative misprints. The prize went to a reader who transformed a stanza in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by adding a single letter to a single word; in the doctored version, the Mariner was compared to
one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful friend
Doth close behind him tread.
Ah yes, many of us will know what it is to be pursued by a frightful friend. Friendship can be a complicated phenomenon.
Few writers are better equipped to examine its complexities than Joseph Epstein. He has established himself, in both his essays and his stories, as a notably shrewd observer of men and manners, at once subtle and down to earth. His humor rests on a strong sense...