From Publishers Weekly
Evoking the vaguely Victorian voice her "gentle readers" no doubt expect, Miss Manners imparts her personal brand of wisdom along with a lady-like amount of wit in this updated look at propriety. Martin, author of the "Miss Manners" columns and a variety of related books, speaks to readers' behavioral concerns typically by introducing a general topic area with a sharp-tongued essay, as she does with "Houseguests," which describes perfect and not-so-perfect guest behavior. She then provides her responses to a limited selection of questions related to the general topic. For instance, regarding guest behavior: When can one stop writing a frequently visited friend thank you notes? Her answer: Only when they appreciate being taken for granted. Though Miss Manners frequently refers to her "gentle readers," there is nothing gentle about her treatment of them. She never shies away from finger-pointing (or wagging), as she does when she chides a woman who engages in one-night stands for complaining about the lack of social follow-up on the part of her discarded men. Unlike etiquette books that take a more preventive approach, offering an encyclopedia-type reference to potentially awkward situations that allows readers to get quick, definitive advice, Miss Manners seems to assume the "gentle reader" has a lot of time for reading-and for puzzling through the answers to divine truly proper behavior or to find a way to apply it to their own situation. And while the questions reflect an updated look at today's etiquette conundrums-from email correctness to dealing with the unmarried pregnant women in our midst-the responses seem to convey weariness over the arrival of such new opportunities for graciousness. In the end, much of Miss Manners' advice can be summarized as: just grin and bear it and leave the snide remarks to pros like myself.
"Freshly updated" is a so much nicer phrase than "revised edition." Besides, isn't it just like Miss Manners (aka Washingtonian Judith Martin) to summarize the quintessential guidelines to "feel correct" in all situations by using two brief sentences? One, don't. Two, be sure not to forget to. As in her previous works of heart, Miss Manners gently approves, educates, and reprimands her fan club and answers urgent should we/shouldn't we questions that literally cover cradle to grave. Her responses are always instructive and usually laced with her unique wit, such as the RSVP to childless couples: "The chief kindness is to remember that your friends now have children and to try not to hold it against them." Or the niceties of eating: "Dessert is the only course that may be properly eaten while strolling on the sidewalk, and only certain desserts at that." And the quick-and-dirty retort to "Where exactly does the salad bowl go?" The answer is, of course, "Directly under the salad." Miss Manners is always as entertaining as she is civilized. Barbara JacobsCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved