Sunday books and good manners
Yesterday I was reading Geoffrey Whatcroft’s NYT Books review of Robert Fisk‘s book The Great War on Civilization, but I fell asleep. All I know is that I’m sure I’m not ready for 1,100+ pages of Fisk. Even the reviewer says
When Fisk (or any of us) is writing for a newspaper, the exigencies of the trade, and tough-minded copy editors, keep length under control. Here he lets it all hang out, diffuse and inchoate, made worse by a penchant for Fine Writing.
The NYT also had a review of Lynne Truss’s Talk to the Hand. Ms Truss is the author of the engaging Eats, Shoots & Leaves. She’s a master of the civilized rant, and in her latest book she takes on people’s lack of manners.
Suzanne Fields’s article, Welcome to the culture of rudeness explores the subject:
Every generation finds ways to push the envelope of collective neurosis, of course. Nothing is as much fun as irritating elders, but now the Culture of Rudeness comes at us from many directions, amplified. Christopher Lasch wrote in “The Culture of Narcissism” in 1979 how modern man needed to look into the mirror to validate his sense of self. The new narcissists have replaced mirrors of reflection with the yearning to attract attention, good or bad, or to shut out everyone else to indulge the nirvana of self-absorption.
“The self-esteem movement nascent when Lasch was writing has reached maturity,” writes Christine Rosen in Policy Review, published by the Hoover Institution, “and its progeny, the children of Lasch’s 1970s narcissists, are now forming their own families. Many of them embrace an increasingly egalitarian family structure, uncritically and enthusiastically use personal technologies that alter the rhythms of private life, and isolate family members from each other.”
Ms Fields quotes Ms Truss,
“Just as the loss of punctuation signaled the vast and under-acknowledged problem of illiteracy, so the collapse of manners stands for a vast and under-acknowledged problem of social immorality. Manners are based on an ideal of empathy, of imagining the impact of one’s own actions on others.”
To Ms Fields and Ms Truss, thank you.
On a whole different topic, here’s what I love about Paris, with thanks to Harry. Make sure to scroll to the right for the panoramic view.