Who said artifice is necessary for a good conversation?
David Hume, that's who. And how does artifice contribute to a good conversation? According to Hume, because of this artifice of manners,
"...a mutual deference is affected; contempt of others disguised; authority concealed; attention given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of conversation maintained, without vehemence, without interruption, without eagerness for victory, and without any airs of superiority." (emphasis mine)
Ah. I see that Hume's observation completely destroys my idea of a model conversation.
For example, my conversations with close friends about music are harsh pronouncements: "You DON'T LIKE WILCO?!" (I think the band in question was Steely Dan, but Wilco has also led to major re-evaluation of friendships....)
Or, if the topic is films, I pontificate and humiliate: "You sad, stupid jerk, if you need a guidebook to understand the last 5 minutes of "2001", then you must promise never to watch a film again"
I think you get the point. I cannot converse well. Which makes me the perfect target for this new book reviewed in NYT: Stephen Miller's "Conversation: A History of A Declining Art". (you know you can use bugemenot.com if you aren't a registered user...)
I humbly request all you powerful, excellent, supremely gifted, beautiful and patient blog readers to read that link and benefit from it. Hey, I am beginning to like this artifice business!
Update: Blogger buddy Alok, whose knowledge and passion for all things Proust astounds me (this is not artifice, dude), shares this excellent link to a post titled "Why Good Conversations Are So Hard to Come By". Thanks, Alok.