Small Change? : Emily Post’s Etiquette (1922-2011)
In the contemporary book market, non-fiction genres such as biography and self-help command considerable sales, yet ‘bestseller’ is still a term primarily associated with fiction (the nature of that fiction is explored in this book). This chapter examines a non-fiction text which has been a bestseller for nine decades, and the pre-eminent example of American advice literature, Emily Post’s Etiquette. In catering to the social needs and aspirations of its readers, Etiquette has described as well as prescribed US social interaction and is therefore a useful tool in calibrating the changing nature of the American dream. Succeeding members of the Post family have renewed the book’s content and thereby ensured its continued popularity. By examining these processes of change – of authorship and content – this chapter shows how non-fiction bestsellers maintain and rejuvenate their markets in a manner quite distinct from the majority of bestsellers which are relatively unchanging works of fiction, bound up with their original authors.