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Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide to Mannersby Henry Alford
Synopses & Reviews
"We all know bad manners when we see them," NPR and Vanity Fair contributor Henry Alford observes at the beginning of his new book. But what, he asks, do good manners look like in our day and age? When someone answers their cell phone in the middle of dining with you, or runs you off the sidewalk with their doublewide stroller, or you enter a post-apocalyptic public restroom, the long-revered wisdom of Emily Post can seem downright prehistoric.
Troubled by the absence of good manners in his day-to-day life-by the people who clip their toenails on the subway or give three-letter replies to one's laboriously crafted missives-Alford embarks on a journey to find out how things might look if people were on their best behavior a tad more often. He travels to Japan (the "Fort Knox Reserve" of good manners) to observe its culture of collective politesse. He interviews etiquette experts both likely (Judith Martin, Tim Gunn) and unlikely (a former prisoner, an army sergeant). He plays a game called Touch the Waiter. And he volunteers himself as a tour guide to foreigners visiting New York City in order to do ground-level reconnaissance on cultural manners divides. Along the way (in typical Alford style) he also finds time to teach Miss Manners how to steal a cab; designates the World's Most Annoying Bride; and tosses his own hat into the ring, volunteering as an online etiquette coach.
Ultimately, by tackling the etiquette questions specific to our age — such as Why shouldn't you ask a cab driver where's he's from?, Why is posting baby pictures on Facebook a fraught activity? and What's the problem with "No problem"? — Alford finds a wry and warm way into a subject that has sometimes been seen as pedantic or elitist. And in this way, he looks past the standard "dos" and "don'ts" of good form to present an illuminating, seriously entertaining book about grace and civility, and how we can simply treat each other better.
"Is it a breach of good manners to mislead folks just a little if you are going to show them a good time? The question arises after a brisk and happy trot through Henry Alford's new book, Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?..Lively." The New York Times
"Investigative humorist Henry Alford explores the illusive art of behaving well....Alford is a charming writer, who seems able to spin delightful stuff from whatever straw he happens to stumble across, and his rumination on good behavior is no exception." Salon.com
"[His] self-deprecating wit recalls earlier generations of gentlemanly humor writers...Alford offers a...nearly always charming account of his own confusion about how to act." The Boston Review
"Alford is a razory-wicked, fun guy to be around, and each of his stories are like those 'tiny acts of grace' brightening your day." Kirkus
"Mr. Manners Henry Alford explains how-and why-to behave. Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? amuses as it informs." The New York Times Book Review
"Poignant...The Verdict: Read." Time
"While Alford's slaying wit and intellectual nimbleness put him on a par with Wilde and Benchley, his personal investment infuses "How to Live" with an emotional expansiveness uniquely his own." Vanity Fair
"Alford is a master of turns of phrase, diction, dialog, and technique. Essential reading." Library Journal, Starred Review
"Essayist Henry Alford [is] the Socrates of dilettantes." Newsweek
"[Alford] describes life as a cosmic Wikipedia, in which each of us through our actions is redefining and expanding the categories to which we belong. The book alternates between these idiosyncratic digressions and actual commentary on modern manners...consistently fun." Newsday
"Extremely entertaining.....Whatever the ideals may be, most of us can agree decent manners are a good idea. Thanks to this handbook, we stand a better chance of complying." Bookpage
"In today's world of social climbers, inconsiderate shoppers, cell phone yappers and the ever-evolving social media, Alford has taken it upon himself to get to the root of just what good manners really means in 2012. His flair for adding jovial wit to the proceedings offered is evident in every chapter. He has a natural, informative and clever writing talent....All in all, Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners provides a reference point from which to learn, a sympathetic voice of reason and an everyday guide for almost any social situation you could possibly imagine." The Edge
About the Author
Henry Alford is the author of three acclaimed works of investigative humor — How To Live: A Seach for Wisdom from Old People (While They are Still on this Earth); Big Kiss: One Actor's Desperate Attempt to Claw His Way to the Top; and Municipal Bondage: One Man's Anxiety-Producing Adventures in the Big City. He has been a regular contributor to the New York Times and Vanity Fair, and a staff writer at Spy. He has also written for The New Yorker, GQ, New York, Details, Harper's Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, the Village Voice, and Paris Review. He lives in Manhattan.
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