"Ambition is not what it used to be," writes Joseph Epstein. The desire to get ahead no longer evokes the same admiration it once did—indeed, modern novelists seem hardly able to deal with ambition without a sneer. But is ambition necessarily synonymous with ruthless, narrow self-interest? Or, as Mr. Epstein suggests, is it "the fuel of achievement"—an honorable way to influence and advance civilization? Mr. Epstein's sketches of eminent Americans—from Benjamin Franklin (that premier go-getter) to Henry Ford, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Adlai Stevenson, and the Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and Kennedy dynasties—and his pointed reconsideration of the ingredients of the American Dream (success, money, and power) form a fascinating social history, one that may change many readers' attitudes toward their “secret passion.”
"Should be must reading in executive suites as well as college classrooms."—Forbes.
"Handled with a good amount of wit and with the clear, straightforward analysis of a man with a point of view. Like Samuel Johnson, [Epstein] reminds more often than he instructs."—Jack Richardson, New York Times.
"To have so rich an intellectual fare so pleasurably served is rare. Read Ambition and feast."—Saturday Review.
Joseph Epstein, editor of the American Scholar, teaches literature at Northwestern University. His other books include Divorced in America and several collections of essays, the most recent of which is Partial Payments.