Lynne Truss is the pundit of pet peeves. She's taken on the ignorance of basic grammar with Eats, Shoots & Leaves
, now she bravely rallies against the abysmal state of manners. And while she uses the Jerry Springer-esque phrase of 'talk to the hand' as her title, it's obvious she'd like to have snarkily dubbed it "Learn Some Effing Manners People!"--only she's too polite to do so. (It should be noted that while she's shocked by 6-year-olds using the f -word, she's hopeful that it's so overused that it'll soon sink into obsolescence.) To hammer across her points on politesse, Truss pulls quotations from an astonishing range of sources. Sociologist Erving Goffman is a favorite, but the Simpsons (of cartoon fame, not Jessica & Ashlee), Evelyn Waugh, and W.B. Yeats are also tapped. What her rant boils down to though is unsurprising: modern communication is at the root of rude behavior
. Mobile phones and iPods have left us existing in our own little "bubble worlds," she says. "It used to be just CIA agents with earpieces
who regarded all the little people as irrelevant scum. Now it's nearly everybody." These self-produced bubbles make it easy for rudeness to rule. If someone forgets to hold a door or say "Thank you," it's because, Truss says, they're zoned out in their personal space, and will likely be offended if their lack of manners is pointed out. (The ruder the person, she says, the more easily offended.) Truss certainly earns many chuckles throughout her somewhat rambling musings, but her concern about society's decline is serious. To that end, she offers the words of Willy Loman's wife in Arthur Miller's most famous play on modern-day morality (and we all remember what happens in its last act): "Attention must be paid."--Erica Jorgensen
A Note from Lynne Truss
Dear Amazon customer and fellow stickler,
Theres an odd thing Im finding about my new book, Talk to the Hand
. The moment I start describing it to people ("Basically, its about the rudeness of everyday life "), they jump straight in with stories about all the rudeness theyve encountered in the past ten years. When I was trying to tell people about punctuation, engaging their attention was a victory. Well, not this time. "And another thing!" they say, banging the table. "What about cell phones? What about cold callers?" I make a feeble stab at outlining my six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door, also my theory of the alienation of modern life, which is that fundamentally we expect to be met half-way in our dealings with strangers and are continually shocked that this courtesy no longer pertains but who am I kidding? I never get further than the first good reason (the decline of "please", "thank you", and "excuse me") because people are agreeing so vehemently, and Im saying "Absolutely" and "Youre right" and "Actually, some of this is in the book." The thing is: there is nothing original in being against rudeness. Everyone is against rudeness. In fact, very, very rude people object to it strongly. But why does it matter to us so much? Are we so scared of other people? Why do we spend so much of our time saying, "Oh, thats so RUDE"? All I can say is, you could find out from reading the book! But if you'd rather not, best wishes to all sticklers.
Your special pal,
Lynne Truss The Lynne Truss Collection
This isn't a book about good manners, per se. Instead, the British author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves
sets out "to mourn... the apparent collapse of civility in all areas of our dealing with strangers; then to locate a tiny flame of hope in the rubble." It's a plea to show some consideration to others, especially in certain areas: (1) "Was That So Hard to Say?" ("thank you"); (2) "Why am I the One Doing This?" (e.g., punching doggedly through the automated switchboard); (3) "My Bubble, My Rules" (forcing others to listen to a private conversation on a mobile phone); (4) "The Universal Eff-Off Reflex" (outrage when antisocial behavior is pointed out); (5) "Booing the Judges" (active disrespect for the umpire, the older person, anyone in authority); and (6) "Someone Else Will Clean It Up" (e.g., rubbish tossed out the car window). Truss expounds on these themes with fine ire, mordant humor and many examples, but it must be said that the result is not so much a book as a heavily padded magazine article. Not that this will bother the many book buyers who will tuck it lovingly into the Christmas stockings of their somewhat discomfited nearest and dearest.
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