Lapham's Rules of Influence: A Careerist's Guide to Success, Status, and Self-Congratulation

Overview

As the editor of Harper's Magazine, Lewis Lapham has enjoyed entrée to America's "cultural elite," a class distinguished by its talent for currying favor, licking boots, and kissing ass. Now, in this scathingly funny and politically incorrect self-help book, Mr. Lapham offers his best advice to aspiring careerists seeking to ride in helicopters and see themselves on television.
        
Drawing upon a ...
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Overview

As the editor of Harper's Magazine, Lewis Lapham has enjoyed entrée to America's "cultural elite," a class distinguished by its talent for currying favor, licking boots, and kissing ass. Now, in this scathingly funny and politically incorrect self-help book, Mr. Lapham offers his best advice to aspiring careerists seeking to ride in helicopters and see themselves on television.
        
Drawing upon a lifetime of experience among the cogno-scenti, Mr. Lapham breaks rank and reveals the unspoken secrets of getting ahead: what to say, how to dress, when to lie, whom to befriend, where to be seen, and why it is absolutely essential to wear clean shoes. ("The first impression is also the last impression. You don't wish to be remembered as the stain on the rug.")
        
Anyone interested in self-advancement will be transformed by Lapham's Rules of Influence, which offers proven nuggets of wisdom. For example, when trying to impress the boss, remember: "Flattery cannot be too often or too recklessly applied. Think of it as suntan lotion or moisturizing cream."
        
Written with stinging wit and tongue planted firmly in cheek, Lapham's Rules of Influence is a brilliant critique of class and manners in America, packed with the kind of irreverent observation that only Lewis Lapham can provide.

  Seek out the acquaintance of people richer and more important than yourself, and never take an interest in people who cannot do you any favors.

  Rumor tinged with malice is the most precious form of gossip. When you are invited to spend a weekend with important journalists or movie stars, it is considered polite to bring four items of unpublished slander in lieu of a house present or a bottle of wine.

  Make unsparing use of clichés. The empty word is the correct word. Contrary to the opinion of snobbish New York intellectuals, the placid murmur of cliché is always preferable to the expression of strong feeling, which is an embarrassment.

  A truly fashionable dinner party ends at the moment when all the guests have arrived and everybody has been seen or not seen. Once attendance has been taken, the rest of the evening is superfluous.

  A good meeting is one at which nothing happens. Sit erect, second all the motions, remember everybody's name.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Alex Kuczynski
...[A] little ditty of a book....Somewhere in the last two decades, Lapham argues, the passion for ideas was transformed into a love of money....The primary cause? The high cost of renting an apartment.....Lapham obviously knows his material, and his yes men and social climbers. Which makes you wonder: what pretentious bunch of jerks has he been hanging out with?
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Lapham (Hotel America, 1995, etc.), adept cosmopolite, elegant essayist, and longtime Harper's editor, provides a high-class self-helper appropriate to our times— contemporaneously Menckenite, sardonic, and withering.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812992342
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/18/1999
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,447,071
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Lewis Lapham was born in 1935 in San Francisco and educated at the Hotchkiss School, Yale University, and Cambridge University. He is the author of several books of essays, including The Wish for Kings, Money and Class in America, Fortune's Child, Imperial Masquerade, Hotel America, and Waiting for the Barbarians. He has been a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and for the New York Herald Tribune, a syndicated newspaper columnist, and, since 1983, editor of Harper's Magazine, where his monthly essays won a 1995 National Magazine Award for their "exhilarating point of view in an age of conformity." Between 1989 and 1991, he was the host and executive editor of Bookmark, a weekly national public-television series. He was also the host and author of a six-part documentary series, American Century, broadcast on public television in 1989. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

MORNING

Appearances

Their rule is sovereign, and you quarrel with them at your peril. Seeing is believing, and you are the sum of what you seem.
In Philadelphia in 1743 the immortal Benjamin Franklin, still a young printer but wise beyond his years, took the trouble to be seen on Market Street every day at noon, pushing a wheelbarrow stacked with reams of blank paper--not because the paper needed to go anywhere, but because Franklin was promoting his reputation for diligence, industry, and thrift.
The times have changed but not the principle, which is why you always rent the Ferrari when visiting Los Angeles or run up a $500 phone bill when staying for three days in a New York hotel--to promote the impression that you are very busy, never out of touch with Rupert Murdoch or Michael Eisner.
Some of the country's conservative churches and liberal universities make invidious comparisons between appearances and what they call reality. The distinction is malicious and false, a cruel punishment visited upon thirteen generations of otherwise happy Americans by Puritan clergymen who objected to the display of gold lace.

First Impressions

The first impression is also the last impression, which is why it is important to always wear clean shoes. You don't wish to be remembered as the stain on the rug.

Choosing Companions

Seek out the acquaintance of people richer and more important than yourself and never take an interest in people who cannot do you any favors.
This rule admits of no exceptions. When Henry Kissinger was secretary of state, he put it plainly to a woman seated next to him at a Washington dinner party. "A great nation," he said, "is like an ambitious hostess. It cannot afford to invite unsuccessful people to its parties."
In the event that you become either rich or famous you may collect friends in the way that Nike acquires prize athletes or Philip II of Spain collected dwarfs.

Optimism

Your fellow countrymen like upbeat, happy people, and if you come up against bad news--
a missing child, the loss of your right hand, your name left off the guest list for Barbra Streisand's birthday party--imitate the television anchorpersons, who manage to smile brightly when reading the reports of floods in Ohio or massacre in Rwanda.
Never forget that you are always having fun. The attitude is especially important when being arraigned on charges of sodomy or tax evasion.

From the Hardcover edition.

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