Clarissa Cruz
July 23, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Move over, Miss Manners: According to two new arrivals on the etiquette scene, modern politesse has more to do with schmoozing and perceived social status than fretting over which fork to use for flounder. Literary critic Mark Caldwell’s charmingly written, scrupulously researched tract, A Short History of Rudeness, touches on everything from the striking parallels between the funeral and wedding industries to the raw state of manners in cyberspace — offering an entertaining take on the fluid nature of decorum through the ages. And it’s the perfect corollary to the amusingly incorrect Lapham’s Rules of Influence by Harper’s Magazine editor Lewis Lapham. Snotty in tone, but containing more than a grain of truth, the tome delivers catty, tongue-firmly-in-cheek social observations. (On working the room: “Too much moving around…suggests an unhappy comparison to [publisher] Mortimer Zuckerman or an undernourished ferret.”) Oh, behave! Rudeness: B+ Lapham’s: B

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