them invited me to come see him, and then abandoned the appointment,rnfor which I had traveled many miles, on therngrounds that he had a superior immediate opportunity. Anotherrninvited me to talk to him and then dismissed me as though Irnhad not been asked to be there. A third (I do not remember himrnand there is no reason why I should, but he was some sort ofrnBritish twit) insulted me while I shook his hand, at a receptionrnto which I had been invited to meet him. Thus, I began to getrnthe picture about the social code of Manhattan, which is superiorrnto that of the rest of the country, as we have been so often informed.rnSpeaking of Manhattan, I must also say that some of thernfinest gentlemen I have known lived there. Lionel Trilling,rnMark Van Doren, and William F. Buckley, Jr., come immediatelyrnto mind. Another gentleman, Bassett Hough, a professorrnat Barnard, disappointed me a little bit when I found out he wasrnoriginally from Virginia, as I should have surmised. I was morernthan disappointed later on when, as he was on his way to playrnthe organ at a church service, he was murdered for the lunchrnmoney he had in his pocket. Such an outrage seemed the destinyrnof an old gentleman in such a world.rnBut we cannot neglect the ladies, for they are one of the reasonsrnfor good manners, and they sustain them by their own example.rnMy maternal grandmother, Mary Ligon Cason, was arnlady who not only had excellent manners but much humor andrna good heart to go with them. Her generosity to people of all stationsrnis something I have never forgotten. The late SallyrnFitzgerald was also a great lady of the old school, and I was gladrnto learn that she was from Texas, not from Massachusetts. (Itrnfigured.) Priscilla Buckley, whom I met a few times in NewrnYork, has always been known as a lady of impeccable manners,rnand her gracious presence is enough to make a day. Of course,rnI have named these three as exceptions.rnThe collapse of manners in the last two generations hasrnbeen so widespread that it has achially masked a shift evenrnmore sinister than ugly clothes, ugly music, and ugly tones.rnThe feminist motto that the personal is the political is not onlyrnwrong but wicked, and it speaks directly to the death of muchrnthat makes life worth living, which is, of course, why it was instituted.rnThe breakdown of the distinction between the publicrnand the private is an expression of the politicization of individualrnexchange, of the invasion of ideology into hitherto privilegedrnspheres and spaces. The worst infractions of good mannersrnI have known have been inquisitions at private gatherings —investigationsrnof political correctness disguised as “conversation.”rnPolitical examinations have largely taken over the place formerlyrnreserved for social exchanges, as I have seen many times.rnThere was the late professor of psychology who announced tornme abruptly, “I’m glad Clinton was elected. There will bernmore abortions, and that’s good.” I once attended a large dinnerrnparty for various academics at which the unannouncedrnagenda, one I had somehow failed to intuit, was literally, “Whatrncan we do to reelect Bill Clinton and protect reproductivernrights?” Tiie delightful five-hour discussion that followed wasrnso exasperating that I had great provocation but little need tornsuggest that various professors and their wives depart for the infernalrnregions immediately, and not wait for the dessert course,rnbecause we were already there. I realized that sometimes it feelsrngood to be a bad boy. Come to think of it, today it almost alwaysrndoes. There comes a point when good manners have to be dispensedrnwith, and to me that point can be identified when Satanism,rntricked out with silverware and napkins and shrimp onrnthe barbie and every amenity except the one that matters, is presentedrnas good manners.rnOnly in the context of a code of manners, however distantiyrnremembered, is it possible meaningfully to say, on occasionsrnthat are not hard to imagine, “Does your mother know whornyour father was yet?” or “Wliy don’t we continue this discussionrnoutside?” or, more positively, “Why, there’s nothing I’d like betterrnthan to chaperone the gay prom —I thought you’d neverrnask!” And finally, let us remember that a great social philosopherrnonce indicated that the hangman is the foundation of thernstate. Our ultimate Emily Post or Miss Manners is the cop onrnthe block or in the cruiser. The temptation to take justice intornyour own hands and to seek the immediate satisfaction of personalrnhonor is best addressed by the reflection that the copsrnpack heat. And, after all, who do you think would be sitting onrnany hypothetical jury, if you survived to be arrested? In a worldrnof inverted values in which rage and resentinent are institutionalized,rnand in which the ideological chip on the shoulder is permanentlyrninstalled as everyone pursues a spurious “equality,”rnwe can hardly expect anything better than what we have. In arnmass democracy such as ours, except for admirable individualsrnand nostalgic rituals, there can be no manners but bad ones.rnPro Formarnby Paul LakernCertain poets, whose measures don’t seem to conformrnTo any known pattern, when pressed, will explain.rnThey’re not tin-eared bards when they veer irom thernnorm;rnIf their meters don’t scan and their rhymes crack andrnstrain,rnIt’s not that the rhyme scheme’s too hard to maintain —rnWhen their sonnet falls short a few lines, their refrainrnIs to sing out in chorus, “The rules don’t obtain!rnI’m a clever young artist subverting the form!”rnLikewise, when a contractor building a dormrnFails to bolt metal cross beams or hammer in nailsrnAnd the floors start to buckle like ships in a stormrnThen collapse, crushing hundreds; though agonizedrnwailsrnMight suggest that the devil was in the details.rnDon’t insist that the culprits be thrown into jails.rnShow that you at least know what good building entailsrnFor a clever young artist subverting the form.rnSo the next time you’re out and the air is aswarmrnWith pestiferous flies, and the staff smell like minks.rnAnd your coffee’s served cold and your sherbet’s servedrnwarm,rnAnd there’s spit on your entrees and piss in your drinks.rnDon’t storm out in a huff, shouting how the joint stinks,rnBut instead flash the host, cooks, and servers sly winks —rnLet them know you’re a modern food critic who thinksrnThey’re all clever young artists subverting the form.rnAUGUST 2001/17rnrnrn