Short, sweet and smart—not an etiquette manual, just a 21st-century reminder of the timeless practice and rewards of good...

A clever, alert essayist presents her argument for an ancient virtue, confirming the old adage that manners maketh the man—and, she allows, enhanceth the woman too.

In a world patently short on patience and apparently burdened with a surfeit of self-esteem, Holdforth (True Pleasures: A Memoir of Women in Paris, 2004) courteously goes directly to the point: We need civil behavior if civilization is to hold together. Consensual good manners, she asserts, are better than both laws and religion. As we have just discovered anew, greed is not good for us. Ever since the heyday of Athenian democracy, community service and cooperation have consistently made the world work better. Good manners, to be sure, are not evidenced by false intimacy invoked by relative strangers. Practitioners of more formal politesse, it may be noted, can maintain a shield against premature familiarity. Holdforth, a native of generally free-and-easy Australia, recalls with admiration the elaborate decorum of the constricted salons of Enlightenment Paris. She allows Lord Chesterfield to pronounce good manners beneficial to all; she enlists Castiglione, Proust and Talleyrand as witnesses. Good manners avert social confusion, she avers. They control narcissism, improve communication, provide social stability and just make life sweeter. Despite the frisson a fine theatrical display of bad manners can produce, proper behavior is a badge of humanity that enhances life, if just for a bit. So if you can’t remove your artfully reversed baseball cap at the dinner table or turn off your iPhone in a crowd, at least try for some other little touch of considerate conduct. It will be good for us all. Who would be churlish enough to dispute that?

Short, sweet and smart—not an etiquette manual, just a 21st-century reminder of the timeless practice and rewards of good manners.

Pub Date: March 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-15532-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2008



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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