Thursday, February 19, 2015
Book Review: Good Manners For Nice People who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon
Author: Amy Alkon
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Content Alert: language (obviously)
Amy Alkon isn't Emily Post. She doesn't pretend to be Emily Post. She doesn't want to be Emily Post. What she does want to do is to help people coexist peacefully in a modern world. She gives great advice about when people should use cell phones (never at a time when it inconveniences others). In fact, her book seems to have two major theses-- don't inconvenience others, and when in doubt, be nice. Simple, right?
But there are times when these two theses come into conflict. Let's say, for instance, like when you have children. For all her aspersions to modernness, Alkon is definitely of the school of "children should be seen and not heard." Therefore, children do not belong in restaurants if they can't keep their mouths shut. They do not belong at New York Fashion Week. They do not belong on airplanes, unless, Alkon says, someone in their family is either dead or dying, or they need a lifesaving medical procedure. And if the children in your charge do raise a ruckus in an inappropriate place (say, at 25,000 feet), it's probably because you are a bad parent. Alkon is very sweet about her neighbor's children, and the efforts her neighbor puts into flying with her children ("she makes these delightful backpacks that she fills with stuff for them to do on the plane" how novel!), but I think she finds it easier to be nice to people she knows than she does to be nice to that mom in the plane whose kids are polluting up her quiet with their noise. She also has this whole thing about writing shaming letters or putting up shaming signs about people who she thinks are not using nice manners, which also seems to go against the second thesis. All in all, an entertaining and helpful, but also a maddening read.