Trifles Make Perfection and Perfection is No Trifle: The Selected Prose of Joseph Wechsberg

A Moravian By Birth, a musician by avocation, a writer by choice, and a bon vivant almost by instinct, Wechsberg was set squarely among a generation of mid-century writers that included A. J. Liebling, M. F. K. Fisher, Waverly Root, and Ludwig Bemelmans. Many of them found a home at the New Yorker and were routinely provided carte blanche to tackle any subject they found interesting.For Wechsberg, this meant the cultural life of the civilized world, which included music, food (especially classic French food, as prepared by such great chefs as Henri Soul and Fernand Point), travel, and the history of banking and finance. Always central to these essays were people of acknowledged accomplishments, whose lives he tried to understand both in the contexts of their own personality and of the cultures that shaped them.Wechsberg was a connoisseur in the old European sense of the word, a man who valued perfection for its own sake, and who saw its quest as both worthy and attainable. His vision was pervaded and shaped by an acute sense of history and a relentless curiosity. Born in 1906 into a wealthy, assimilated Jewish family, he was raised in Austria, but saw his comfortable life threatened, and then extinguished, by Hitler's annexation of his native Czechoslovakia. He came to America with only a basic command of English but an impressive command of what was happening in Europe. His most powerful essays, describing the tragic fragmentation of Europe at the end of World War II, are never strident or bitter and only slightly ironic.Reading Wechsberg is like fine dining; the food is exquisite, the choice of wine perfect, the presentation flawless, and one leaves the experience feelingnot bloated and savaged, but warmed and content. This generous, representative selection of his very best is sure to satisfy any civilized palate.