PAPERBACK TALK by Ray Walters, NYTimes, 4 August 1980
Lisa Birnbach, who once covered ''the scene'' for a Manhattan weekly, puts it this way: ''In this time of jittery economics, shifting values and uncertain self-identities, it's nice to feel you belong to something enduring, secure, top-drawer, outstanding - like the world of preparatory schools that date back to the mid-18th century.''
That world and its alumni are celebrated by Miss Birnbach in ''The Official Preppy Handbook,'' which Workman will be publishing next month - just in time for the fall term - at $3.95. In 160 pages, it charts and illustrates, in somewhat tongue in cheek fashion, the proper preppy's progress from silver spoon to obituary in The Times. Along the way it offers counsel on how to bear up under a legacy of good taste and breeding, how to get into a good school and how to get out, how to dress and behave with members of the opposite sex, what games to play and where to ''waterhole,'' what to do at a reunion.
The distiller of all this received wisdom is a native New Yorker who acquired many preppy friends during her progress through Riverdale Country School and Brown ('78). She was tapped for the assignment by an old friend and Workman author Richard Smith (''The Dieter's Guide to Weight Loss During Sex''). Miss Birnbach - who longs to be called ''Bunny,'' a proper preppy name - got her project going at a party where 20 preppy friends - lawyers, bankers, advertising people - contributed ideas.
Isn't all this terribly, provincially Northeastern? Not at all, Bunny Birnbach says. There are large preppy enclaves from San Diego to Kansas City, from Grosse Pointe to Shaker Heights. The South is clustered with them. Stores from coast to coast feature their rep ties and button-downs.
Isn't all this very undemocratic? Not at all, Bunny Birnbach insists. If you weren't born a preppy, her book will tell you how to be one.
Lisa Birnbach also attended the 92d Street Y Nursery School, which goes unmentioned, and is the granddaughter of the late Dr. Norman Salit, a rabbi, a lawyer and a president of the Synagogue Council of America. Can Jews be Preppy?