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Lynne Truss' latest, 'Talk to the Hand,' examines our bad manners

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``Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door'' by Lynne Truss; Gotham ($20)


Lynne Truss, a British author known for "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," her entertaining book on grammar, has produced "Talk to the Hand," a new book based on the current world's lack of, and desperate need for, civility, respect and good manners.

This book is a rant in the grand sense of a woman who is totally fed up with global bad manners. Luckily she can also make 201 pages fly by as you snicker and chuckle, recognizing your modern world in every paragraph.

Truss illustrates at great length how modern society is lacking in civility - defined as "a polite act" and filled with disrespect. "Armies of underpaid call-center workers have now been recruited and trained, not to help us, but to assure us, ever so politely, that the system simply does not allow us to have what we want, and no, you cannot speak with a supervisor because the system isn't organized that way."

Her definition of what used to be considered basic good manners is, to her mind, now likely to be viewed as snobbish and elitist. The lack of a simple "Thank you," and "You're welcome" when a door is held open can drive her to a boil of frustration. American readers might think the British examples a little foreign but the meaning is always clear.

Her take on the Internet, for example: "I had been examining a recommended Web site about the Titanic and found a rare clickable option, "About the creators." I clicked it, chewed the edge of the desk for the next 25 minutes, and then discovered the full, pathetic truth. The creator of this Web site was a schoolboy in Canberra. He was 14. This Titanic site was his science project. I had just spent four hours laboriously accessing the homework of a teenage Australian."

This mirrors the experience of many Web surfers who find what they think is a solid legitimate research Web site, only to discover the writer is an apologist for the debauched Roman emperor, Caligula. The only difference is that with current broadband, you may not wait 25 minutes to get onto the site.

Truss offers no solutions and that's the weakness of the book. Her examples are entertaining but beyond hoping that someone will recognize the problem, she doesn't anticipate that things will improve.

But reading `Talk to the Hand,' you can enjoy a good laugh to offset the daily rudeness.


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


(C) 2005 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.. All Rights Reserved

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