MANNERS FROM HEAVEN: A Divine Guide to Good Behaviour by Quentin with John Hofsess Crisp

MANNERS FROM HEAVEN: A Divine Guide to Good Behaviour

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KIRKUS REVIEW

I survived through politeness."" So says the once-scandalous, now-avuncular Mr. Crisp (The Naked Civil Servant), who offers here a series of short, chatty lectures on basic, considerate good manners (not the ""pettipoints of etiquette"")--filled out with amusing bits of anecdote, autobiography, and self-deprecation. True manners, Crisp reminds us, are a technique of inclusion, not exclusion: ""a way of ensuring that in our company no one will ever be made to feel that he is an outcast. . ."" Manners are also ""a way of getting what you want without appearing to be an absolute swine."" And the major obstacle to manners nirvana is ""self-centered turmoil""--aggravated in recent decades by the influence of the young (""Creeping Sloppiness"") and the fall-out of feminism (""the relationship between men and women has become a kind of mutual rape""). Getting down, very loosely, to specifics, Crisp advocates the joys of groveling, the ""subtle art"" of the euphemism, the glories of kindly lie--""the basic building block of good manners."" (""This book is not for the morally squeamish."") He urges city-dwellers to avoid crowds, slow down, and resist the ubiquitous specter of urban rudeness. (He himself lives on Manhattan's East 3rd Street: ""If I lived any further east I would have to travel to and from all social engagements in an armoured vehicle."") At his most gently cynical, he recommends ""having no relationships except those easily borne and disposed of""; and, in case one does become sexually/romantically involved, breakups should be dealt with via withdrawal, evasion, silence, or self-deprecating flattery--never with full, frank discussion. (""The abuse you heap upon yourself is well deserved."") Crisp is at his least persuasive on love-and-lust, while showing an unmannerly weakness for naughtily puerile puns; his generalizations about US society are vastly uninformed. But, though you'll only get a few, small specific suggestions here (e.g., how to deal with an always-late lunch companion), you might enjoy a quick browse through this breezy, stern, not-too-campy mixture of social criticism (Quentin Crisp as Christopher Lasch) and personal testimony (Quentin Crisp as the Machiavelli of self-effacement).

Pub Date: March 13th, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row