April 28th, 2006


Art of Conversation

Yes, friends have arrived, some of them people I have known in the flesh, or the meat package as the more committed hacker Gnostics put it, some still cyberfriends. It is remarkable not only to read their responses to me but to look in on their often witty and civilized sites. In this connection I note a review by Russell Baker in the New York Review of Books of a new book called Conversation: A History if a Declining Art. The usual recounting (it seems) of evenings at Lady Mary Wortley Montague's and snappy repartee between Voltaire and Rousseau and how this kind of thing has vanished. Decline in care for language, polarization of viewpoints (no yelling and orating in true conversation), spieling talk shows with the rest of us witnesses -- and the plethora of electronic gimcracks, computers, blackberries, email, cell phones, things that connect but not really. Baker remembers the long conversations in his family home in the Depression, when they didn't have money for any other kind of entertainment. Well it seems to me that if there is a venue for conversation it's right here. Virginia Woolf: "there must be talk, and it must be general, and it must be about everything...It must not go too deep, and it must not be too clever..." I think this is the modern salon, and the magic of how the salon itself is assembled means that it could be the high civilized mode of the present and future. But now I'm orating, not nice in true conversation....