Baker, Russell. “Talking it Up.” New York Review of Books, May 11, 2006.
What I liked was his description of what makes a good conversation:
Both participants listen attentively to each other; neither tries to promote himself by pleasing the other; both are obviously enjoying an intellectual workout; neither spoils the evening’s peaceable air by making a speech or letting disagreement flare into anger; they do not make tedious attempts to be witty. They observe classic conversational etiquette with a self-discipline that would have pleased Michel de Montaigne, Samuel Johnson, or any of a dozen other old masters of good talk whom Miller cites as authorities.
This etiquette, Miller says, is essential if conversation is to rise to the level ofâ€”well, “good conversation.” The etiquette is hard on hotheads, egomaniacs, windbags, clowns, politicians, and zealots. The good conversationalist must never go purple with rage, like people on talk radio; never tell a long-winded story, like Joseph Conrad; and never boast that his views enjoy divine approval, like a former neighbor of mine whose car bumper declared, “God Said It, I Believe It, And That Settles It.”
I’d like to snip this and put it in the opening portion of my next few syllabi…