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I suppose I have a problem with this book - I just cannot get past the image of Lynne Truss watching 'The Jerry Springer Show' without laughing too hard for a bit to be able to continue reading. And yet, this is her inspiration, according to her own words: ' "Talk to the hand" specifically alludes to a response of staggering rudeness best known from "The Jerry Springer Show".' This is a phrase that comes complete with a physical embodiment, an incarnational aspect if you will, of similarly off-putting rudeness - an open palm held out from an outstretched arm, much like a traffic cop directing a wayward or disobedient driver.
Truss is well known for her book 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves', a book about zero-tolerance for punctuation errors (and, of course, there are some elements of this very review that she would not approve). She turns her same style of lack of tolerance to the lack of tolerance she perceives in general manners and social interactions, as Western society has become increasingly strident and ill-mannered in general aspect. This pervades all segments of society - retail salespeople who assume an attitude of superiority, if they are willing to interact with the public at all; children who have little respect for each other, and no respect for those older; the casual use of profanity in general public, once a great taboo, and now causes little consternation even among the more 'genteel' of people. She also targets those who see the use of the cell phone as a god-given, inalienable right (even in movie theatres and other such venues), and the other bane of modern existence, the computer-automated customer service helplines.
Truss sees no particular culprit in the decline of modern manners, but rather a confluence of different influences - the television culture, which glories in provocation and shock value; the decline of parental authority (either by neglect or by design); finally, the absence of responsibility, personal and corporate. Suggestion of personal responsibility often gets an aggressive if not threatening response.
As some may notice, the real down-side to Truss' text is the lack of solutions, even impractical ones. It is certainly her right, as it is the right of anyone, to complain and decry the downfall of manners, but it would be more helpful if, after shining the light on the problem, there might be some suggestions. I can relate to this text very well, given my Anglican and Anglophile background; the idea of manner to Truss are very English in aspect. I wonder how this would be taken by those of other cultures, whose expectations of manners differ in many ways.
These minor criticisms aside, this was a fun book to read, and a quick book to read. It will make a good gift, and does give one pause and cause for pause for thought.
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