Books: Dry Paths in a Swamp

THE POLITE AMERICANS by Gerald Carson. 346 pages. Morrow. $1 >.50.

Americans are incorrigible joiners, as witness the National Association of Former FBI Agents, the Asparagus Club, the Auto Dismantlers Association of Southern California and the Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo (lumbermen). A dog named Socrates Lovinger is listed in the Manhattan phone book. In colonial times, cussers were punished with a red-hot poker thrust through the profane tongue. In 1900 a New York judge committed an actress to Bellevue for smoking cigarettes. In 1905 the U.S. had more pianos and cottage organs than bathtubs....

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!