In a coarse, rude world, one woman is fighting back — politely. Local writer and publishing consultant Bethanne Patrick celebrated the publication of her new book, “An Uncommon History of Common Courtesy,” at the One More Page Books in Arlington on Wednesday night. More than 40 well-behaved people attended.
This is Patrick’s second volume in the “Uncommon History” series published by National Geographic. The sharply designed and strikingly illustrated book offers page-length discussions of everything from “Ring Kissing” to “Close Talkers.” Concise biographies of significant figures in the history of good behavior are interspersed tactfully throughout: Erasmus, Mrs. Beeton, Lady Bird Johnson. With her presumably impeccable conduct, Patrick entertained Judith Martin (a.k.a. Miss Manners) at the National Geographic cafeteria many months ago and got her to provide the foreword to the book.
It was, in a way, good manners that led to Wednesday night’s party. When the One More Page Books was under construction a year ago, Patrick called the owner, Eileen McGervey, to welcome her to the neighborhood; the two women have been friends since. The 1,500-square-foot store opened in January. “We’ve been on a trajectory like this,” McGervey says, holding her hand at a sharp upward incline. A former marketing consultant to high-tech companies, she now employs four people part-time and is considering hiring another. Her store carries about 6,000 titles, along with a prominent selection of wine and fine chocolates. “I like to be surrounded by things I love,” McGervey says. “My first job was as a page shelving books on a book mobile.”
Her success would seem to point to the way independent bookstores can survive in this new era. “Most of the New York Times best-sellers don’t sell here,” she says. “People come here to get something different. They look at the books that are out, and they talk to us. And they come for the wine.”
The highlight of the book party was a raffle for two copies of “An Uncommon History of Common Courtesy.” When she realized she was holding the winning ticket, Patrick’s mother accepted the free books very politely.