--Jane Stanton Hitchcock, Social Crimes
“They were having one of those Wasn’t-That-Dinner-Divine-Last-Night? Conversations, where all the compliments are calculated to end in criticism of the hostess.”
--Jane Stanton Hitchcock, Social Crimes
Image Credit: Divinely Elegant, The World of Ernst Dryden
"[T] he only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.”
The book on the coffee table is A Snob in the Kitchen by the Italian-born Parisian fashion designer Simonetta. It is an NHL favorite and is available for purchase here. [Also, if you have tried the book's recipe for a Hangover Salad and it works, please let us know.]
Image Credit: A Wonderful Time by Slim Aarons
“Many of the women looked embalmed—but by the best morticians in the world.”
--Leo Lerman, on Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball
Photo Credit: The Sixties, A Decade in Vogue
“American Society has, from the very beginning, acted British, talked French, and behaved like the Devil.”
--Cleveland Amory, Who Killed Society
"[T]he social snob, while not extinct, has gone underground (except for professionals such as headwaiters and metropolitan hotel room-clerks), and snobbery has emerged in a whole new set of guises, for it is as indigenous to man's nature as ambition and a great deal easier to exercise."
--Russell Lynes, Snobs, A Guidebook to Your Friends, Your Enemies, Your Colleagues, and Yourself
If the assertions of Russell Lynes in Snobs, A Guidebook are correct, it is best not to judge snobs harshly for two compelling reasons. One, there are a variety of kinds of snobbery and at least one form probably encompasses oneself. Two, even if one has avoided all other kinds of snobbery, calling out the pomposity of others is actually a form of snobbery itself. The book is tongue-in-cheek, but in humor, there is truth.
Lynes is quick to point out that we live in the age of the common man. As such, the stereotypical society snob has been driven underground. However, all other types of snob are flourishing. Because they are sub rosa, cloaked in veneers of morality, religion, and/or patriotism, these forms of snobbery mostly go unchecked. Lynes seeks to bring them out in the open in this humorous book.
Following are just a few of the types of snob that Lynes calls out:
The Regional Snob
It turns out those from the provinces are just as likely to be a snob as their urbane countrymen. Lynes provides two humorous examples:
The Texan. “In Texas it is said that you should never ask a man where he comes from. ‘If he’s a Texan,’ they say, ‘he’ll tell you. If he’s not, don’t embarrass him.’”
The Townie. “It was recorded that a decade ago that a boy who lived on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the Massachusetts coast, was assigned the problem of writing a composition about the then Duce of Italy. His paper started with the sentence: ‘Mussolini is an off-Islander.’”
The Religious Snob
The possibilities here are as diverse as are the world’s religions, but the family of the Duc de Levis-Mirepoix trumps all other contenders. The family holds a title that dates back to the 9th Century and is supposedly descended from a sister of the Virgin Mary. It is said they preface their prayers, “Ave Maria, ma cousine …”
A painting in the family castle depicts a member of the family ascending to heaven and being greeted by the Virgin Mary. She welcomes him with the deference accorded to a member of the more prestigious branch of the family.
The Art Snob
The Art Snob is particulary grating, because he becomes a Trojan Horse in one's home. “[He] can be recognized ... by the quick look he gives the pictures on your walls, quick but penetrating, as though he were undressing them. This is followed either by complete and obviously pained silence or by a comment such as ‘That’s really a very pleasant water color you have there.’”
The Literary Snob
This type of snob either consciously or subconsciously practices the art of one-upmanship. “[He] has not only read the book you are reading but takes pleasure in telling you the names of all the earlier and more obscure books by the same author, and why each was superior to the better known one that has come to your attention.”
The Reverse Snob
Lynes advises not to take snobbery too much to heart, however, lest one become a reverse snob. “This is the snob who finds snobbery so distasteful that he (or she) is extremely snobbish about nearly everybody since nearly everybody is a snob about something.”
The Tastemaker Snob (About the Author)
Russell Lynes unashamedly admits that even daring to write this treatise was a form of snobbery. Moreover, as the New York Times noted in his obituary, Lynes was “one of America’s foremost arbiters of taste and mores.” It would be nearly impossible maintain such a status without opening oneself up to charges of snobbery. If the surname sounds familiar, it is because Russell was the younger brother of homoerotic photographer George Platt-Lynes who was a precursor to one of today’s particularly tyrannical forms of elitism—the Gym Snob.
“That’s the trouble with you American husbands—you’re so kind to your wives that they lose interest in you.”
--Gene Markey, Stepping High
It is chronologically impossible that Gene Markey was referring to himself when he wrote about this flaw with American husbands in his 1929 novel Stepping High. In that year, he was just then becoming a popular man about town in Hollywood and had not yet begun his extraordinary marital career that saw him wed (and divorce) three of filmdom’s most popular actresses:
Joan Bennett (1932 to 1937)
Hedy Lamarr (1939 to 1940)
Myrna Loy (1946 to 1950)
In 1952, Markey forsook California for the greener pastures of Kentucky (literally and figuratively). There, he remained happily married to the doyenne of Calumet Farms—the former Mrs. William Wright—for the remaining three decades of his life.
In addition to writing novels and marrying well, Gene Markey was a gifted caricaturist. We currently are offering for sale an inscribed copy of Stepping High in which Markey has sketched a self-portrait. In it, he appears every inch the sophisticated gentleman. We also have a book of delightful literary caricatures by him, Literary Lights, A Book of Caricatures. It include portraits of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, H.L. Mencken, and Carl Van Vechten.
“It was a part for an older woman. And you think I’d ever have let Bill Holden leave me? He’d have been too tired to get from my bed to the swimming pool.”
--Mae West, on Why She Turned Down Sunset Boulevard
“I’ve always felt it was a mistake to probe too closely into road tours, but I think it’s nice to be faithful to each other when you’re in the same town.”
--Ilka Chase, In Bed We Cry
The best biographies do more than simply rehash the major events in the lives of their subjects: they offer psychological profiles. A great example is Philip Ziegler's biography of Lady Diana Cooper, one of the 20th's most original and celebrated personalities. In the following passage, Ziegler perfectly encapsulates Lady Diana Cooper's nuanced and somewhat contradictory attitude towards social class.
“Her political opinions, in so far as she had any, were instinctive and imprecise. She was for conservation, but not necessarily a supporter of the Conservative Party; a monarchist, but not automatically the champion of any individual monarch. On the whole she would have preferred to see the rich man remain in his castle, the poor man at the gate, but if the poor man by industry or sleight of hand gained possession of the castle, she would be perfectly ready to accept an invitation to dine there. What would have disturbed her most would have been if the castle had been demolished and a row of identical bungalows erected on the site, but even this would not have been cause for despair. Diana would have known that the one bungalow would soon be larger and more luxurious, or at least more interesting than the others, and have felt confident that it was to that one she would find her way.”
--Philip Ziegler, Diana Cooper
Photo Credit: The Happy Years, Diaries: 1944-48
“It’s true that even in Eden there were snakes.”
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies: A Novel
More work by Gail Potocki is available via Facebook.