Alford, Henry. Would It Kill You to Stop Doing that? A Modern Guide to Manners.

NY: Twelve, 2012.

I read a lot of books on etiquette and public behavior, both historical works and present-day guides. It’s an area of social history I find of particular interest, and when you get past the proper use of the fish knife and the language of visiting cards and polite cell phone usage, there really isn’t that much difference between the 1850s and Miss Manners.

I picked up this rather slender (and rather high-priced) volume because of the subtitle, but that turned out to be misleading. Alford is a humorous essayist for New Yorker and Vanity Fair without much real background in this subject, except that he went to Japan for a month to compare their interpretation of good manners with what we do these days in the U.S. He spends most of his time, however, recounting conversations with casual acquaintances, throwing out witticisms that aren’t always germane, and making sure to tell you on every third or fourth page how gay he is (including how to flirt with the waiter), as if that’s somewhat relevant to the subject of etiquette. The actual content relative to “manners” is very thin indeed and his explication is even thinner. I suspect this book began as a series of articles which the author then stitched together. He could have saved his time and so could I.

Published in: on 22 April 2015 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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