Sunday, September 7, 2008

Emily Post by Laura Claridge (a review)

3.5 out of 5: Emily Post is most well known as the author of Etiquette, a thick manual on the rules of behavior regarded as correct in social life. By the time Post published Etiquette in 1922, there were already hundreds of etiquette books flooding the American market. The fact that Post's book is the only survivor from that time speaks to its superiority and timelessness, and yet Claridge is the first to write a complete biography of this important cultural figure.

As expected, Claridge gives a thorough account of the genesis of Etiquette and its subsequent revisions over several decades. Claridge is also careful to show that Post's accomplishment as a writer was not limited to Etiquette. Post was the author of several well-received novels along with countless magazine and newspaper pieces. And, although Emily Post will always be remembered primarily as the author of Etiquette, Claridge's exhaustive biography makes clear that Post's interests ranged well beyond writing about social rules. Post's father, Bruce Price, was a successful architect, and Post acquired an interest in the profession from him. She designed an apartment building on the Upper East Side that still stands today and completed many other design projects during her lifetime. Even in the later years of her life, Post continued to tackle important projects, including a trip to Germany after World War II to help bring orphaned Jewish children to America.

Emily Post's life was packed with interesting events and accomplishments, and Claridge presents a complete account of all of them. A bit workmanlike and dry at times, Claridge's biography is nonetheless a full and well-researched account of a fascinating life.

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