Saturday, October 17, 2009

Books: Miss Manners' Guide To Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, and others, by Judith Martin

Miss Manners is coming out with a new book!

It's about weddings.

I'm not getting married. Nobody I know is getting married.

I'm going to buy it anyway. I may very well pre-order.

Miss Manners, aka Judith Martin, is my authority on matters of etiquette. And I love reading her books. Given a choice between a new book from my favorite mystery author, and a new Miss Manners? I'll pick the Miss Manners without a moment's hesitation.

Miss Manners has opinions. She looks at the infinite complexity of etiquette, and pulls all the threads together into a structure that simply cannot be criticized. She acknowledges changes in the world, and necessary changes in behavior, and always makes the right call between the traditional and the new.

The old idea that the divorced should celebrate their second marriages quietly, as if ashamed? Feh; she rejects that. The new idea that wedding guests should provide a gift of a high enough value to "cover their plate"? Feh; she rejects that just as thoroughly. (And, no, she doesn't say 'feh'. That wouldn't be polite. Would it? Hmm.)

She rejects the idea that the rich have a corner on etiquette. And the idea that people of good hearts and good intentions have no need for etiquette. And the idea that American etiquette is in any way inferior to European etiquette. And the idea that etiquette ever requires one to be a doormat. And the idea that all people need to get along is better communication. (Hmmm. On this, I find myself wondering if she's read Douglas Adam's discussion of the babelfish, which agrees with her.) She has opinions, and I rarely disagree with them.

And she's just plain fun to read. The stories. The humor. The sarcasm. How often do you expect to laugh out loud while reading an etiquette book? You will.

I want that new book and I want it now.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


  1. you have almost... i say ALMOST... convinced me to read this book. I am not a Ms. M fan. As a buttoned up kind of person I like to have the advantage of not knowing any better so I can occasionally be spontaneously rude and inappropriate. Reading her gets my brain involved in puzzling out appropriate behavior. I say puzzling because the rules tend to contradict, and then I'm paralyzed. Yes, a little manner knowledge is a dangerous thing. Besides, I have my good friend Martha to turn to when I really need to know how to be civilized. I want the cliff notes when you're done.

  2. But you never _are_ rude and inappropriate, so why give up the opportunity to read something good?