Oh, this is lovely: the Key City Public Theatre in Port Townsend, Wa. is having an evening whereat three of my stories will be read aloud. It’s tonight! And I will be one of the three readers—or, as the local paper put it, “Alford to attend Alfordpalooza.”
-I’m not exactly technophobic; I guess I’d be more accurately described as techno-churlish. So it was a surprise to me when I realized that having Scrabble on my iPhone has improved my life greatly. I decided to spend three weeks using apps to try to improve my life in other ways, too: here’s the story that ran in the New York Times.
-In light of the Sony phone hacks, People magazine asked me to weigh in on the topic of apologizing to someone you’ve offended.
-Thanks to the munificence of Travel and Leisure magazine, I got to ride, herd, and wash elephants in Laos: never has my day-job been so thrillingly adorable.
The New Yorker’s Emma Allen nicely mentioned my kale story in her round-up of “not-to-be missed” humor pieces from the magazine in 2014. Thank you, crucifer gods.
-Like you, I have often wondered, How could a hostage negotiator help the average family get through Thanksgiving? So, for my New York Times column, I interviewed nine hostage negotiators–three of them formerly with the FBI–and asked them for holiday guidance. One of the former FBI men suggested that you apologize even if you know you aren’t in the wrong—a gambit that I think we’d ALL love to encounter more often. (Later, I got to talk about the article on public radio’s Colin McEnroe Show. And there were nice mentions of the article on the websites of the San Francisco Chronicle, Inc., and Real Clear Politics.)
-I also talked turkey etiquette (and, to a lesser degree, hostages) on The Splendid Table’s special, 2 hour-long Thanksgiving episode, Turkey Confidential, alongside culinary luminaries like Lidia Bastianich, Melissa Clark, Francis Lam, David Leite, and Carla Hall. Alas, I didn’t get to meet the divine Ms. Bastianich, as I conducted my interview by phone from my sister-in-law’s new home decor store, Off the Green, in Guilford, Ct. However I did once meet Melissa Clark, and ate leftovers from her handbag. (Long story.)
-Back in my Times column, I tackled the etiquette of becoming friends with your friends’ friends. And in Vanity Fair, I asked the question, What does your preferred greeting style say about you? (I’m an inappropriate hugger. Beware.)
-Is there too much hugging going on today? Is there any way for the huggily-inclined to co-exist peacefully with the non-huggy? I tried to answer these questions in a recent New York Times column. Afterwards, I got to talk about it on the excellent Colin McEnroe Show (I’m on at about the 38:37 mark).
-Recent news reports suggested that the popularity of kale is leading to a shortage of everyone’s favorite cruciferous veg. My spoof, from the New Yorker.
-Also from the New Yorker: I imagined why Martha Stewart is so enamored of the drone she has at her house in Bedford, NY. (And, then, praise God, Ms. Stewart mentioned that very piece in her own explanation of her amour de drone.)
-I tackled the etiquette of books–reading them, suggesting them, rearranging them in stores–for the New York Times Book Review.
-Is there a decorous way to get over an ex? What are the viable options besides genital cuffs or libel?
Here is some recent stuff that has occupied my datebook and cerebellum. Apologies for the sloth-like way in which I update this site; as a closet exhibitionist, my usual m.o. seems to be to try to get your attention, but never to be caught trying to do so. Which typically translates to: do nothing. A winning strategy!
Here I am on the public radio show Q discussing whether or not the fistbump should replace the traditional handshake, as certain academics and scientists (and President Obama?) advocate.
I spent a week on a working farm in Umbria, where I had a scarefying episode with pig transport.
In the column I write each month in the New York Times about manners, I’ve addressed how celebrities feud differently than they used to , and about how easy it is today unintentionally to come across as “cybercreepy.”
I joined Toastmasters to hone my public speaking skills.
I reviewed an anthology of Garrison Keillor’s work for the New York Times Book Review.
In a vivid display of bad manners, I now present some reactions to my new book, “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide to Manners.” Apparently the book is out in paperback and available for purchase.
“A brilliant primer on gracious living” (VanityFair.com)
“Mr. Alford is very funny in describing his conversion from passive recipient of bad behavior to active if subtle scold” (New York Times)
“Wickedly witty” (Publisher’s Weekly, starred review)
“A nearly always charming account” (Boston Globe)
“Pitch perfect…will keep manners mavens in stitches” (Library Journal)
“Amuses as it informs” (New York Times Book Review)
“Alford is a charming writer, who seems able to spin delightful stuff from whatever straw he happens to stumble across” (Salon.com)
“Alford weds the inspired lunacy of David Sedaris to the philosophic enquiry of “The Ethicist” column in the New York Times” (Whole Living)
“Extremely entertaining” (BookPage)
“Seriously entertaining” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“A writer as cheekily charming as he is helpful” (Oprah magazine)
“A valuable premise of the book is manners and etiquette aren’t neccessarily the same…[Alford's] self-effacing tone and dry sense of humor help to unify” (Washington Post)
“Alford is a razory-wicked fun guy to be around, and each of his stories are like those ‘tiny acts of grace’ brightening your day” (Kirkus Reviews)
Here is some stuff I’ve been writing for the New York Times and recording for public radio in the past 6 months or so. Click on the description and it will take you to the link.
- I also started writing a monthly column about manners for the New York Times. Topics have included: people who are self-appointed manners cops; people who are online “humblebraggers”; whether or not it’s kosher to Google someone before you meet him; the etiquette of marijuana consumption; social kissing.