Books: Talk, Talk, Talk Gossip

by Patricia Meyer Spacks Knopf; 287 pages; $18.95

The Bible abhors it. Dr. Johnson inveighs against it. French Philosopher Roland Barthes considers it "murder by language." Even Ann Landers speaks out in opposition. But Patricia Meyer Spacks disagrees. Gossip, she believes, is good for you: "It may manifest malice, it may promulgate fiction in the guise of fact, but its participants do not value it for such reasons; they cherish, rather, the opportunity it affords for 'emotional speculation.' "

Spacks, a professor of English literature at Yale, builds a beguiling case. Gossip is "idle talk about other persons not present." In a word, backbiting. In two words, incessant backbiting....

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