Literary and social critic Mark Caldwell gives us a history of the demise of manners and charts the progress of an epidemic of rudeness in America. 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, with which we defend ourselves against an onslaught of nastiness. But Caldwell demonstrates that the foundations of etiquette actually began to corrode several centuries ago with the blurring of class lines. Touching on aspects of both our public and private lives, including work, family, and sex, A Short History of Rudeness 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 manners and mores.
"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
"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
"Thoughtful and witty . . . Splendidly readable . . . Caldwell's prose, like his insights, is entirely irresistible."—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
"Provocative . . . An astute critical history of American manners, taste, and etiquette."—Kirkus Reviews
"Charmingly written, scrupulously researched . . . An entertaining take on the fluid nature of decorum through the ages."—Entertainment Weekly