" 'It's good to talk' was the slogan of the twentieth century, which put its faith in self-expression, sharing information and trying to be understood. But talking does not necessarily change one's own or other people's feelings or ideas. I believe the twenty-first century needs a new ambition, to develop not talk but conversation, which does change people. Real conversation catches fire. It involves more than sending and receiving information. So writes Theodore Zeldin, a fellow and former dean of St. Antony's College, Oxford, and author of An Intimate History of Humanity.
This charming and right-on-the-money volume will speak to all those tired of the egocentric posturing and adversarial stance of so much that passes for talk today in both the private and the public arenas. "There are more interesting things in life," notes the author, "than polishing one's armor."
Zeldin praises lively and adventuresome conversation that expands horizons, challenges imaginations, and acknowledges mystery. He presents his ideas on saving family dialogue, taking the conversation of love into new directions, and enriching talk at work.
The author suggests that we set up occasions for sharing ourselves, our ideas, and ideals with those who are different from us. Zeldin quotes a councilwoman and lawyer who says: "Without conversation, the human soul is bereft. It is almost as important as food, drink, love, exercise. . . . People in solitary confinement, like Terry Waite, keep themselves sane by having imaginary conversations with themselves." This is a salutary resource for book discussion groups or salons interested in exploring the civility that is created by open-ended and wide-ranging conversation.