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Why are our dealings with strangers becoming more unpleasant day by day? When did "please" and "thank you" become passé? When did the words "hello," "good-bye," and "good morning" fall out of common usage? Why do people behave as if public spaces are their own chip-strewn living rooms? Talk to the Hand is a rallying cry for a return to civility in our "eff off" society and a colorful call to arms— from the wittiest defender of the civilized world. BACKCOVER: The Queen of Sticklers takes on the sorry state of modern manners.
"Without knocking anyone down on your way, hurry to the bookstore for a copy of Talk to the Hand… Long live the Queen of Zero Tolerance. And heaven help the rest of us."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Yes, people are now ruder than ever, and no, there's no excuse for it: The outraged and slighted can find solace in Talk to the Hand."
—New York Post
"Lynne Truss is "the Doyenne of Do's and Don'ts."
"The hilarious British fusspot is back with Talk to the Hand… in which she trains her zero tolerance wit on rude behavior, from the death of thank-you notes to the ubiquity of the F- word."
"She's cranky, she's articulate, and she's absolutely right. Just as she fomented a revolution in language, now she foments a revolution in behavior. You'll find yourself nodding in agreement; then you'll find yourself speaking up."
—Victoria Skurnick, Editor-in-Chief, Book-of-the-Month Club
"She can make 201 pages fly by as you snicker and chuckle, recognizing your own modern world in every paragraph. [...] Reading Talk to the Hand, you can enjoy a good laugh to offset the daily rudeness."
—The Kentucky Herald-Leader
|Introduction : when push comes to shove||1|
|1||Was that so hard to say?||41|
|2||Why am I the one doing this?||67|
|3||My bubble, my rules||93|
|4||The universal eff-off reflex||121|
|5||Booing the judges||145|
|6||Someone else will clean it up||175|
Barnes & Noble.com: Talk to the Hand is the follow-up to your mega-bestseller, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which took on the subject of bad punctuation. What made you decide to now take on bad manners?
Lynne Truss: I thought I shouldn't write another book on language straight away, mainly because I feared it would make me so self-conscious about my own writing that I'd have to give up the literary life completely and tend goats in the Tyrol instead. I also thought the time was right for a book on rudeness.
What I lament in Talk to the Hand is the feeling that people aren't prepared to meet each other half-way any more -- and this links quite firmly with Eats, Shoots & Leaves, because a badly punctuated email is a failure in the writer to meet the reader half-way. Punctuation is a form of courtesy! The other reason I wanted to write about rudeness, of course, is that it's a subject I felt I could be funny about.
B&N.com: Do you think E, S & L achieved its goal? Or did you wind up becoming appalled by bad punctuation in the fan letters you received?
LT: We may never know what the impact of Eats, Shoots & Leaves was, aside from making a lot of sticklers feel less embarrassed about themselves. Obviously, it did create an interest in punctuation, which was a pretty amazing feat. All the fan letters were meticulously punctuated, I am relieved to say, but they were depressing for another reason: I became a global scapegoat for the horrors of the decline of written English, and for a while I felt that it really was my individual destiny to save the printed word. However, I'm feeling a lot better now; almost normal. In fact, yesterday I spent quite some time gazing at the lettering on a little red van for "Pizza at it's best", and when I finally registered the rogue apostrophe, I found that I could cope with it quite well.
B&N.com: Are you in danger of becoming the patron saint of lost causes?
LT: You may be right.
B&N.com: Were you surprised that E, S & L did so well in the States?
LT: Everyone is surprised -- it is so uncompromisingly British in its references and its humour. There is a general belief that American readers simply will not read a book that has not been Americanised -- which is a bit insulting to the intelligence of American readers, if you ask me, and has been wonderfully disproved by its success.
B&N.com: You mention the plague of bad customer service in Talk to the Hand. Were you hoping that store clerks would start recognizing you and not be so rude?
LT: Perversely, while I was writing the book, I was always hoping that store clerks would be rude, to give me more material, but I kept having the opposite experience. Everywhere I went, people were friendly and helpful. It was like something out of a movie. "Good morning!" they all said. "How may I help you?" At the local store one evening, where I confidently expected to get some very bad service indeed, I watched in dismay while the young server actually took the arm of an infirm old man and helped him out to his car. I was furious to see such courtesy and kindness, especially in a young person. It was intensely frustrating.
B&N.com: You've done a lot of publicity touring. Which country would you say is the rudest, and which is the most polite?
LT: Despite my habit of generalising, I find I can't generalise about this. However, I did meet a very rude woman radio interviewer in New Zealand. I managed not to be rude back to her, but I was delighted to hear that a subsequent British interviewee walked off her show, telling her that she had her head up her bottom.
At the other end of the scale, I appreciated the etiquette, in Hong Kong and Singapore, of presenting a book with both hands and a little bow. A young man in Hong Kong asked me to sign his book, "To Eric, I love you, Lynne Truss." And I was so impressed by the courteous way that he asked me, I did it.
B&N.com: Are Brits becoming less civilized?
LT: Oh yes. Blimey, yes. Don't come here, it's awful.
B&N.com: It seems like no one wants to come out and say they're sorry anymore -- why do you think that is?
LT: My theory is that it's mainly to do with status. People simply refuse to lose face. So when they are patently in the wrong, and it is pointed out to them, they are hostile and abusive instead of apologising. As a corollary to that, people who are big enough to apologise get no credit for it; on the contrary, they are regarded, contemptuously, as idiots. Apology is merely a sign of weakness. This is a complete reversal of values, and it makes me want to cry, just thinking about it.
B&N.com: How much has the Internet contributed to this rampant rudeness?
LT: A lot, in my opinion. I have several beefs with the Internet. First, it isn't good for people to spend a lot of time in a virtual community. They forget how to interact with real people. The Internet also encourages egocentricity, which leads to contempt for other people, especially strangers.
What I particularly object to is the way the Internet presents itself as the repository of all knowledge, with which one can interact. In fact, of course, it holds only the information that other people have placed on it. And our way of conversing with it -- of doing all the hard work of searching for stuff on it, and never being able to ask a question -- is very bad for our general sense of alienation.
B&N.com: Are our manners destined to get progressively worse?
LT: I think manners are being radically redefined. I offend people all the time, I'm sure of it, because I insist on breaking into their personal space and reminding them they are in public. I think tensions of this sort are bound to worsen -- unless, of course, we all stay at home and bolt the door! Someone said to me the other day that he was so relieved when his bank installed automatic doors, so that he would no longer have the misery of holding doors for people who didn't say thank you. That's quite sad, when you think about it.
Posted May 25, 2007
I expected this book to be an amusing lark that would sooth my inner disgruntlement over society's lack of manners and etiquette. Parts of the book succeeded in this, others were quite dull and a few I simply had to disagree with the author about. Manners and etiquette are great, I'd be the first to agree, but they can be taken to far and in the end, is what happens in this book. One can't please everyone, and this book didn't please me.
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Posted March 10, 2009
I haven't read it yet, but I didn't spend much of anything on it. So if it it isn't good, I won't mind as much.
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Posted May 31, 2009
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