Good Manners (Review)

I discovered that September is National Courtesy Month while I was piecing together this book review. One one hand, I’m glad there is some sort of commemoration for courtesy and civil behavior. On the other hand, I’m sorry that courtesy and civil behavior are becoming endangered practices.GoodManners-BoyScouts

I remember being taught, at a young age, that courtesy is the display of polite behavior and good manners. It’s all about getting along with others and showing respect, even if we’re in a bad mood, even if the other person is in a bad mood.

The practice of politeness has been reinforced by teachings about “The Golden Rule”, and “The Law of Karma”. The teachings have been proven experimentally in our lives when we learn that people shove back if we shove them. It’s not polite to push people around, physically or verbally.

Unfortunately, there have always been people who forget and neglect their lessons of good manners or were never taught them, in the first place. Bad manners are not a recent or a contemporary problem.

It was during my weekly visit to the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library, that I GoodManners-bookjacketstumbled upon the latest book by Amy Alkon.   Good Manners For People Who Sometimes Say F*ck is certainly an eye-catching title. The title even seemed germane to me and people like me. The librarian even chuckled nervously when he OK’d my check-out.

Perhaps I have some latent Victorian reserve in my personality, but I think the title of Ms. Alkon’s book is a horrible one that detracts from the message that should be
central to the book. The title is a cheap shot that panders to some sort of lowest common denominator in society for a quick sale in a book store or on line. It shows a poverty of vocabulary whenever someone resorts to using the F-word, even thinly disguised with an asterisk in place of the vowel.  I suppose that this fault will probably pass unnoticed by many readers or it will be purposely overlooked by those of us who have been drawn in by this tacky title. I’m sure there are many folks who disagree; so I’ll let it pass.

This is my first exposure to advice columnist Amy Alkon, whose syndicated work appears in several newspapers in North America. In hindsight, I realize I’ve seen many of her nuggets in random Facebook entries on the Web, as well. The  ginger-haired pundit presents a more rough-edged variety of etiquette for those of a new generation. One of my favorite writers is Judith Martin “Miss Manners”, so my impression is that Alkon may have been inspired, in some way, by Miss Manners.

Alkon’s writing style is also somewhat similar to that of Miss Manners. This might be due to the fact that both women contribute to our knowledge base in the context of newspaper syndication. The two address very similar problems. The main difference is that Alkon comes off as more funky.GoodManners-AmyAlkon

I suppose a writer needs to be extra assertive in order to break through the current babble of saccharine platitudes that pass for “homespun” wisdom these days. I’ll allow Alkon her approach, if it actually gets through to those who really need
to read it. Good luck, though. People who need lessons in etiquette don’t usually read books on good behavior, regardless of who writes them or how condescending the book title.

For those of us who enjoy reading etiquette books, Alkon’s latest effort comes off as entertaining and witty. She displays the spunk of Miss Manners in the context of Internet culture. We already know what we need to do in awkward or disrupting situations. Alkon validates those actions with humor and knowledge.

Some of the best advice regards cell phone use. Is it polite to cold call somebody? When should we leave a voice mail? You’ll see the boorish behavior of others, and perhaps your own in Alkon’s descriptions. She blends some knowledge of technology and psychology to come up with some zingers and solutions that might actually work.

Amy Alkon’s latest book is an amusing read. Perhaps some of her advice will remain with the reader to be used when it is actually needed. On the spur of the moment in daily life. If you enjoy Miss Manners, you’ll probably get a kick out of this book, too.

{ Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon; published June 3, 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin; 304 pages; ISBN: 978-1-250-03071-9 }

l rm a 07-01The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you have a pleasant National Courtesy Month.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, cultural highlights and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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