If Emily Post, author of seminal lifestyle guide Etiquette, could update her comprehensive Jazz Age tips for the modern era, she’d probably nix “she must not shout” but retain “she must not, while wearing her bridal veil, smoke a cigarette.” But seeing as the manner maven can no longer re-imagine her 1922 lifestyle advice tome every half-decade—as she did until her death in 1960—the example of her life story will have to suffice. In Emily Post, biographer Laura Claridge assumes the burden of updating Post’s pursuit of propriety for a postmodern readership. Post’s strict adherence to the upper-crust values of her time would have grated with the post-’60s rules of womanhood, which jettisoned shame, repression, and gender roles along with table manners. Still, Claridge manages to frame Post as a strong feminist voice—a voice that nevertheless belonged to a bitter divorcée who urged marriage roles over women’s lib and never dropped her adulterous husband’s last name. It’s a characterization that’s half historical relativism, half polite fibbing.
CLARIDGE DISCUSSES AND SIGNS COPIES OF HER WORK AT 1 P.M. AT POLITICS AND PROSE, 5015 CONNECTICUT AVE. NW. FREE. (202) 364-1919.