…James’ encyclopedic knowledge of many topics, his ornately mannered prose, and even his winking tone of self-aggrandizement (each chapter has an epigraph attributed to James himself) are all effective contributions.
Debut author James offers young men advice on how to comport themselves in this self-help guide.
For fashion designer and former U.S. Virgin Islands senator James, proper behavior and presentation are the signifiers of a true gentleman. This book, modeled after classic etiquette guides, such as William O. Stevens’s The Correct Thing (1938) and Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette (1963), seeks to provide up-to-date instruction for contemporary men while also attempting to “chart new territory, in some instances addressing topics that would have been regarded as taboo by previous generations.” In chapter after detailed chapter, James offers comprehensive insight into the etiquette surrounding hygiene, sex, table manners, bathrooms, conversation, dating, entertaining, dressing, going out in public, traveling, and even planning a wedding. The author covers everything from the correct order for guests to enter a formal dining room, to how to fashion an improvised bidet, to what a gentleman should do if he finds himself sexually aroused during a therapeutic massage. With many accompanying diagrams and lists—including the Wayne James Continuum of Human Sexuality, the Seven Elements of Internal Beauty, and dossiers on various cultures around the globe—the author provides a polymathic description of the world for people who wish to experience it to the fullest in a gentlemanly fashion. That said, the book is more than 800 pages long, including the index, and characterized by an unrelenting tendency to catalog things. The chapter on planning a wedding, for example, could be a book by itself, with a 44-page section dedicated solely to properly addressing invitations. Even the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book take up 16 pages. (What’s more, this is only the first book in a planned trilogy.) Even so, James’ encyclopedic knowledge of many topics, his ornately mannered prose, and even his winking tone of self-aggrandizement (each chapter has an epigraph attributed to James himself) are all effective contributions. Etiquette is ultimately about appreciating the rich tapestry of human experience, and James enthusiastically delights in its minutiae.
A comprehensive and idiosyncratic guide to male etiquette in the modern world.