The perceived breakdown of civility has in recent years become a national obsession, and our modern climate of boorishness has cultivated a host of etiquette watchdogs, like Miss Manners and Martha Stewart, who defend us against an onslaught of nastiness. Touching on aspects of both our public and private lives, including work, family, and sex, literary and social critic Mark Caldwell examines how the rules of behavior inevitably change and explains why, no matter how hard we try, we can never return to a golden era of civilized manners and mores.
Mark Caldwell is a literary critic and the author of an acclaimed sociomedical history of tuberculosis in America, The Last Crusade. He teaches at Fordham University and lives in Manhattan and New York’s Hudson Valley.
“Refreshing...[Caldwell] packs in his information with unobtrusive dexterity in a style that is modest, readable, intelligent and companionable.”--Naomi Bliven, The New York Times Book Review
“Charmingly written, scrupulously researched...An entertaining take on the fluid nature of decorum through the ages.”--Entertainment Weekly
“An entertaining and morally important book...Caldwell is splendidly convincing when it comes to class, and downright brilliant on the ways social and geographical mobility have prevented the establishment of settled, enduring codes of behavior in the United States.”--A.O. Scott, Newsday