STAR-SPANGLED MANNERS: In Which Miss Manners Defends American Etiquette (for a Change)

Judith Martin, Author . Norton $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-04861-2

Martin, aka bestselling author and columnist Miss Manners, has a vision for Americans as saviors of the civilized world. Her argument is based on two notions: first, that American manners are bad, and second, that because the United States is a nation of immigrants who share "the desire to be treated fairly, the imagination to sketch a new life, and the determination to pursue it," Americans are uniquely positioned to improve their manners and create an etiquette system that could serve as a model for the international community. Martin acknowledges that not all citizens will acquiesce to this new and improved etiquette, but she has a suggestion for how to handle that; we must discourage bullying and bashing through the simple exercise of social disapproval and exclusion. In support of her thesis, Martin provides a history of American manners, from the founding fathers, who first envisioned an "etiquette of equality," through the present day, when "equality" is often misused and greed and selfishness reign. But the original principle of equality stands, says Martin, an astute observer of social customs and manners who cares deeply about the instability of tradition and rituals, a shift in emphasis from the family to the individual and the tendency to value frankness above tact. But she heaps one observation on top of another without ever quite pulling together the pieces, and the details of how this new etiquette is to be developed are painfully glossed over for an issue so central to our national (and international) well-being. (Nov. 4)

Forecast:This work of social criticism is weightier than Martin's usual fare and may appeal to a smaller audience. But Norton is banking on big sales, with a six-figure first printing and a 10-city author tour.

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 00/00/0000
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-393-34216-1
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-393-32501-0
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