This is a really fun book to read. It is well written, provides you with an inside look into various celebrities (Barbara Walters, Monica Lewinsky, and Tina Brown to name but a few), yet somehow it (to use Epstein's own words) it succeeds in not making you demeaned by your own low curiosity. In short, according to Epstein, the book succeeds in producing buzz (buzz not just about contemporaries by the way, but about luminaries such as Louis XIV and H.L. Mencken as well). All of which makes it a great read.
But that also makes it a problem for Epstein's larger point. For, while he is perfectly willing to concede gossip's positive uses (it enforces social mores, tells you what you really need to know about your fellow human beings, and helps your social skills), the larger point he is trying to make is that the Internet has given us too much gossip. His wants us to come away shaking our collective heads at the un-seriousness of the information we are presented even in serious publications. Because that information is so filled with gossip as to be merely a distraction. He wants us to absorb the Talmudic lessons that we are not to even start talking well of our fellow man because we will, in the end speak badly of him and the Talmudic lesson of Lashon hara or the evil tongue. Or at least he says he does.
For, in the end, these moral lessons (sprinkled as they are in between juicy pieces of gossip) are what prevent you from thinking that your own voyeuristic interest in this book degrades you. But, let's be honest, it's not the moral lessons that keep you turning the pages. It's the one about what Senator Moynihan's assistant would say when the late Senator was completely drunk or the one about Marlene Dietrich making it with JFK less than an hour before receiving an award for her wartime work with Jewish refugees.
In the end, this book delivers exactly what it preaches (although it can't be said to preach all that terribly hard) against. Which, of course is what makes it such a fun read. So, if you're looking for a fun, gossip-filled read about celebrities modern and not-so-modern this book's perfect. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a serious book about gossip, you may want to look elsewhere.