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Miss Manners Rescues Civilization: From Sexual Harassment, Frivolous Lawsuits, Dissings and Other Lapses in Civility

Miss Manners Rescues Civilization: From Sexual Harassment, Frivolous Lawsuits, Dissings and Other Lapses in Civility

by Judith Martin, Daniel Mark Duffy (Illustrator)

In an era of American history that has shown a heightened sensitivity toward the ideals of democracy, self-expression, freedom, and individual rights, we are paradoxically experiencing a breakdown in our nation's ability to function as a civil people.

From athletes who shout obscenities on national television to surgeons who blast their favorite music while


In an era of American history that has shown a heightened sensitivity toward the ideals of democracy, self-expression, freedom, and individual rights, we are paradoxically experiencing a breakdown in our nation's ability to function as a civil people.

From athletes who shout obscenities on national television to surgeons who blast their favorite music while operating, from gang members who kill those who've "dissed" them to mourners who treat funerals casually, we trample over the rights of others in a savage pursuit of individual agendas. We have cashed in etiquette (yes, the "E word") for a generous helping of self-importance, and the exchange is crippling our ability to function as a civil society.

In her ground-breaking new book,MISS MANNERS RESCUES CIVILIZATION: From Sexual Harassment, Frivolous Lawsuits, Dissing and Other Lapses in Civility, Judith Martin puts etiquette on the public agenda in response to our nation's cry for a return to civility.

A thought-provoking book that calls on etiquette to champion the quest for civil decency, MISS MANNERS RESCUES CIVILIZATION discusses the futility of using the law to correct our ever-increasing list of societal offenses cluttering the courts and declaring new laws has proved to be both costly and ineffective. However, a rebirth of good manners places the privileges and challenges of a civil society back where it belongs in the hands of the individual. This witty, thoughtful, and timely book responds to the public cry for a return to civility and puts etiquette on an equal plane with morality as society's most powerful guiding force.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"There has been a decided drop in the quality of disgusting things being done in public," Martin observes in this compendium of contemporary behavioral problems. With charm and wit, she minutely examines the rents in the social fabric since the 1960s, when many traditional guidelines for civility were abandoned with little to replace them but self-interest or confusion. She maintains that the basis for a workable society is still consideration for others as well as for self, and that etiquette is not an antiquated set of Victorian rules but an urgent necessity in what can otherwise be a social jungle. In the form of answers to real and imagined letters from readers of her syndicated "Miss Manners" newspaper column, Martin holds forth with more than superficial wisdom on problems encountered in the workplace, between the sexes, between parents and children and in a variety of legal, political, public and private situations. Little is too trivial for her to consider (if you are a vegetarian, how, if at all, should you thank your employer, who gives you a turkey for Thanksgiving every year?), but she does not ignore such larger issues as bigotry and date rape. More than a book on etiquette, this is both entertaining and serious social commentary. (June)
Library Journal
Is the concept of etiquette outmoded? Certainly not, as Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners (Ms. Manners on (Painfully Proper) Weddings, LJ 12/95), proves in this witty dialectic. Noting that good manners have come under attack in recent years, Miss Manners points out that courtesy is not repression but the indispensable foundation of a livable society. Illustrated by letters from her syndicated column and excerpts from news stories, this is less a how-to manual than a polemic. Cogent and well written, the book provides a fascinating look at modern society. For general collections.-Susan B. Hagloch, Tuscarawas Cty. P.L., New Philadelphia, Ohio
Gilbert Taylor
Conquering the etiquette infractions of a fractious nation, the doyenne of decorum, the princess of protocol, the regent of rules, the dictatrix of do's and don'ts (oh dear, Mr. Reviewer got carried away, he didn't really intend to harangue Miss Manners and immediately apologizes), Miss Manners here conducts her crusade for consideration and politeness. In an era when vulgarity and belching are mere background noise, isn't she tilting at windmills? If good behavior is relative in a multicultural society, isn't she foisting upon us rigid Victorian concern with forks and teacups? No, is her demurely determined answer, and her stalwart stand sustains her millions of newspaper readers discomfited by fender-benders that explode into gunplay or compliments that mutate into sexual discrimination lawsuits. Whatever the original sin, she soothingly counsels, counter-rudeness only compounds the violation. What about demands from exemptions from etiquette because it's elitist and hypocritical? Shouldn't people be natural and honest about their feelings? Miss Manners hears these revolutionaries and confounds them with her charming expressions that a little pretense is usually preferable to a lot of brutal frankness. Indulge as her correspondents might in uttering a scathing retort to whatever mannerly problem they dump at her proper little feet, Miss Manner advises (unfailingly politely, of course) biting the tongue, then allowing the malefactor a face-saving retreat from the scene of the crime. Restoring the world through courtesy, compassion, and respect may be a mission impossible, but by larding the task with mordant humor, Miss Manners makes it worth trying--and her book worth buying.
Kirkus Reviews
Here is Dear Miss Manners once again, scolding and shaking her finger at Gentle Readers who fall short in the task of lubricating the increasing, squeaky hinges of social interaction.

This time, Martin (Miss Manners on [Painfully Proper] Weddings, 1996, etc.} adopts Miss Manners's familiar, self- mocking pseudo-Victorian persona ("totally besotted with the idea of proper behavior") to address a host of millennial dilemmas in etiquette. These range from legislating protection for the American flag to netiquette on the Internet. She deplores the first (the power of etiquette is sufficient safeguard, she maintains, siding with the Supreme Court) and hails the second as a resurgence of standards to guide the new electronic community. In between, she fearlessly, but politely, tackles issues of date rape, sexual harassment, public protest, political correctness, dress codes, and even proper behavior in the operating room. Why, she wonders grumpily, should a nervous patient or even other members of the surgical team be subjected to the surgeon's taste in music—or any music at all, for that matter? That, like smoking in an unventilated room, is inflicting a possibly offensive personal whim on a defenseless public. Incidentally, etiquette does not preclude that public, individually or collectively, from protesting strongly—but politely, of course. As amusing (or irritating, depending on your tolerance for those who refer to themselves in the third person) as Miss Manners may be, she takes her subject seriously enough to equate manners with morals. Etiquette is more than social convention—it promotes orderly and predictable behavior that enhances human dignity and reduces conflict. It is worth preserving, she feels, even as traditions evolve.

With civility as the foundation of civilization, Miss Manners evokes a kinder, gentler lifestyle that still packs a (ladylike) punch.

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
1st. Edition
Product dimensions:
7.88(w) x 9.51(h) x 1.63(d)

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Read an Excerpt

"Watch out. Miss Manners is now going to argue that manners, far from being a weak and optional virtue, much less a nuisance in the way of morality, is the oldest social virtue and an indispensable partner of morality. Rather than being an optional luxury, a sort of hobby virtue, this is a key virtue one that can hold its own with the biggies and civilization's first necessity."

Meet the Author

Born a perfect lady in an imperfect society, Miss Manners considers it her duty and privilege to lead the way to a more civilized and possibly even pleasant society.

In her Miss Manners column, distributed by newspapers nationwide by United Features Syndicate since 1978, Judith Martin answers questions on etiquette three times a week. As readers accept her view of life as a comedy of manners, they have increasingly sent her not only their table and party questions, but those involving the more complicated aspects of life romance, work, family relationships, and child-rearing.

In contrast to Miss Manners, but with her indulgence, Mrs. Martin is also a novelist, journalist, lecturer and frequent guest on national television and radio shows. She recently presided over her own PBS television special, "Miss Manners and Company."

She has been called, by George F. Will, "the National Bureau of Standards." Mrs. Martin gives advice, in the words of People magazine, "as if she had access to the stone tablets that Moses mislaid." Miss Manners explains the etiquette element that can be found in just about every aspect of life.

Born in Washington, D.C. and reared there and in foreign capitals, Mrs. Martin spent 25 years at the Washington Post, where she covered social life at the White House, embassies, and the zoo, before becoming a film and drama critic. A graduate of Wellesley College, Mrs. Martin has been awarded several honorary degrees.

Mrs. Martin is a member of the Editorial Board of The American Scholar, the Board of Directors of the Washington Concert Opera, the National Advisory Council of the Institute of Governmental Studies of the University of California at Berkeley and the Board of Management at the Cosmos Club.

Judith Martin and her husband, a scientist and playwright, live in Washington, D.C. They have two perfect children.

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