Movin’ On Up

“Our present-day culture’s final taboo”
Jazz Johnson and Dirk Wittenborn Charles Ruger

“The Social Climber’s Bible”
Dirk Wittenborn and Jazz Johnson
Penguin, $20


John Updike insisted on writing his own jacket copy. A curious fact that can pop up when you least expect it. If you happen to be reading jacket copy.

The authors of “The Social Climber’s Bible,” Dirk Wittenborn and Jazz Johnson, use their new book’s back flap to set the tone for what’s inside: Ms. Johnson “is a graduate of Barnard College, manages her family estate,” yes, she’s of the Johnson & Johnson Johnsons, “serves as Master of Fox Hounds, and raises heritage turkeys.”

Furthermore, she “hopes that collaborating with her uncle, Dirk” — who reports inches above on the flap that he “summers on the wrong side of the tracks in East Hampton” — “does not get her kicked out of any of the clubs she belongs to.”

On the contrary, they’re here to help you get in. Sure, this is comedy that exposes what the authors call “our present-day culture’s final taboo,” but it’s also exhaustive, if arch, quasi-social science, almost 300 pages of it in a 5-by-7-inch format perfect for the top of the porcelain tank. There’s even a Wittenborn-Johnson Psychological Aptitude Test for Social Climbers. (Mr. Wittenborn’s father invented the Wittenborn psychiatric rating scale and was a noted expert and researcher in pharmacology, all explored in his son’s often satirical 2008 novel, “Pharmakon.”)

Of the 19 chapters, “How to Get More Out of a Cocktail Party Than a Hangover” is exemplary, offering tips separated out in shaded boxes for quick perusal: “Never walk directly to the bar,” or, “Never underestimate the value of kissing your hosts on all four of their cheeks.” Speaking of hosts, Mr. Wittenborn and Ms. Johnson point out, “never, never say, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ The graceful social climber always greets a stranger with: ‘So nice to see you again. . . .’ ”

“By giving the illusion that you have met before, you will be that much closer to actually having a genuine friendship.”

Each chapter is peppered with Empowering Thoughts, one elucidating “The Three Questions You Never Want to Ask at a Cocktail Party,” the third being “What do you do?” which, the authors point out, “really translates into ‘How much do you make?’ [and] is more tactfully handled by making a supposition: ‘Aren’t you in finance?’ ”

And like that.

If you’re of a certain age, “The Social Climber’s Bible” may well put you in mind of Stephen Potter’s midcentury “One-Upmanship,” a classic of the guide genre, with its driest of dry British wit.

Here, Mr. Wittenborn and Ms. Johnson employ no shortage of verbal feints, saying what they don’t mean, laying on amusing qualifiers: “We mention this,” they write of Ralph Lauren’s promotion of the WASP aesthetic, “not in any way to imply Ralph was obsessed with or fetishized the glamour of snobbery,” or, “If we were being mean we might . . . suggest corporate raider Ron Perelman was the inspiration for SpongeBob’s snobby neighbor, Squidward.”

Just one more. On the Middletons, “Did Kate and Pippa stop climbing when they were nicknamed the Wisteria Sisters in honor of that clingy, climbing, flowering vine? Of course not; they climbed faster.”

Good, catty fun.