Friday, January 30, 2009

Catherine Blyth's "The Art of Conversation"

Catherine Blyth is a writer and editor. She has contributed to publications like The Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman and Mail on Sunday, and written scripts for the BBC and Channel 5.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure, and reported the following:
The first question: which edition, British or American?

Anglophiles enter the tail end of chapter four, 'The Rest is Silence'. Yes, an entire, brief chapter celebrates a communication tool 'as versatile as the queen in chess' – able to provoke thought, aid negotiation, and more. This page relishes the confidence silence bestows, before arguing it opens 'a window of opportunity' – either to mend a hole in conversation, or exit.

Meanwhile, Gotham Books' lean volume skips ahead to Five, 'Fit Subjects'. What makes a good topic? With help from Aristotle, I explain why 'topics are unstable mixtures of attitude and subject', whose interest rate (like most people's) declines with time, before offering a menu of topics, rating their virtues, and risks.

Does either 99 faithfully represent my book?

Well, obviously I explore how conversation works, and how anyone can do better. But neither page displays the range of reference (from nomads to kings to waitresses to hostage negotiators), the funny stories, or my argument: that conversation is an everyday luxury that costs nothing, but can bring you the world.

Beyond how to talk to anyone, this art encompasses all our tools for reading and changing minds. How we listen, persuade and flirt; how Dolly Parton entrances interviewers; why we should laugh at our jokes, and how to navigate tricky discussion, at work, in love, and play.

In short, everything we need to survive – and enjoy – tough times.
Listen to an excerpt from The Art of Conversation, and learn more about the book and author at Catherine Blyth's website.

--Marshal Zeringue