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Novelist, commentator, wit, yes—but egalitarian? Miss Manners? Indeed: In Star-Spangled Manners, D.C.-based etiquette arbiter Judith Martin sets out not just to chronicle but to champion (gasp!) the American way of acting, charting the development of our peculiarly democratic system from the debate over George Washington’s title to the institution of Casual Friday. Along the way, she ponders the flaws in the system, laments the failings of its practitioners, eyes the available alternatives—and concludes, perhaps inevitably for a Washingtonian, that weaknesses and all, our much-mocked set of melting-pot manners is, at root, the noblest of them all. But Martin, an avid theatergoer and keen observer of popular culture, packages a warning along with that endorsement: We Americans increasingly want our lives to be as dramatic and entertaining as what we see on the screens we’re constantly glued to, and “by making the same requirements of life as we do of show business, we doom everyone…to failure.” Think that’s so much Oprah-speak? Argue (politely) about it at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Trey Graham)