Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Words of advice

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Words of advice

Monday, October 31, 2011

When I was a child I became intrigued by a book on the family bookshelf, a big thick one, dark blue, by Emily Post. Its words of advice have never failed to steer me in the right direction on the critical everyday questions of leaving a calling card or addressing an ambassador. They have also, gentle reader, given me insight into the later novels of Henry James.

I found--and continue to find--the book a wonderful glimpse into another age. And what I took in, too, was the underlying message, not of snobbishness, which it often stands accused of, but of consideration for one’s fellow human beings and of a democratic idea that establishing rules everyone can know can allow anyone to feel at ease no matter the social situation

Of course fast forward to the 21st century and the rules have become a little muddled. It’s still easy to know which fork to use, but other issues are less clear. Which is exactly why we’re drawn--and by we I mean me--to advice columns. How to navigate the intricacies of ex and step and blended familial ties, the appropriate reaction to the cell phone on the dinner table, the friending and unfriending of friends and unfriends. We need advice.

Some of my favorite comes every Sunday in Philip Galanes’ Social Q’s column in the New York Times Styles section. His answers feel like the perfect mix of snark and compassion. He seems to recognize that since we’re all in this together why make anyone’s life harder than it needs to be.

Galanes has a new book coming out soon, a compilation of the columns. It’s called " Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quagmires, and Quandaries of Today." Ah, quite. I’m looking forward to reading it. Maybe you’d like it, too.

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