Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? by Henry Alford

Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners by Henry Alford

Reviewed by Ingrid 

Published: 2012

It's about: Despite the subtitle ("A Modern Guide to Manners,") this is not your traditional etiquette guide. A lot of reviewers on Goodreads were quite put off that this book wasn't the straightforward, how-to-have-good-manners guide they thought it would be. The summary provided by the publisher is a little bit less misleading - "A laugh-out-loud guide to modern manners." This is humor. Look, it has a toilet on the cover.
Henry Alford via
So, "guide." What does that mean anyway? I don't think a "guide" necessarily has to be purely informative. This book is mostly a series of short stories and example of good and bad manners that Alford has observed and etiquette experiments and consequently, mistakes he's made himself. It;s more like a journey.  Imagine yourself on a Disneyland ride through the world of manners with Henry Alford as your enthusiastic chaperone and narrator.

I thought: I like it. It was fun. In my opinion, Alford's wandering style and random thoughts and stories about the wonderful world of manners is far more exciting than an Emily Post-style guide. Alford's style of humor is, yes, a little too self-inflated at times, but mostly funny. I like learning about manners, I like laughing at people with horrific manners, and I like laughing, so I enjoyed this book. It wasn't earth shattering-ly entertaining or significant to me, but it was fun.

Verdict: In between. A good library check-out, but I don't know if I'd buy it.

Reading Recommendations: Henry Alford was interviewed on Radio West earlier this year. Listen to a bit to see if you like his sense of humor.

Warnings: Some swear words.

Favorite excerpts: "Most people prefer to be complimented on something they've done (painted a room, closed a deal, raised a child) rather than on something they are (beautiful, adventurous, smart, scrupulous). A compliment wants to be specific, but not so specific that it's hair-splitting and seems calculated. If you tell a friend you love her new haircut, she'll probably smile; but if you tell her instead that you love the way her hair now curls around her ear when she's standing in a strong wind, she may start. She will spend more time than she ought to thinking about this comment. Too many compliments (or too strong a compliment) is just as bad as no compliment; one rarely wants to verbally fellate. Maybe the analogy to employ here is flowers: Compliments should be a single sunflower set on a windowsill for her to walk up to and admire, not three dozen roses delivered by an exhausted-looking bike messenger in an angel costume."

What I'm reading next: Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez