We Need to Talk

 “When did ‘We need to talk’ . . . become a threat rather than a statement of fact?” asks Catherine Blyth in The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure. Other similar titles on CLP’s  shelves include Conversation: A History of the Declining Art by Stephen Miller, and John L. Locke’s The De-Voicing of Society: Why We Don’t Talk to Each Other Anymore.



Each of these authors explores how conversation differs from talk. A conversation is a two-way process in which the participants encourage and challenge each other to extend and refine their ideas. It means listening closely, asking questions, and showing respect for one’s partner in conversation. 

These books point out that television and computers significantly inhibit discourse. The popularity of social networking and cell phones may seem to offer hope for new forms of conversation, but, as Mr. Miller writes, the “forces sapping conversation seem stronger than the forces nourishing it.”

Ronald Carter, co-author of the Cambridge Grammar of English, said in an interview that “. . . we’re not such good listeners. That’s where the art of conversation is being lost. We transmit in short, sharp chunks, but don’t receive too well.” He sees hope for the future of conversation in reading groups, where “People meet informally . . . to discuss their ideas and feelings about books.”

CLP offers a variety of reading groups (which we call book groups or clubs), where conversation is practiced and encouraged. April’s schedule includes Dish: A Foodie Book Club, Bound Together Book Club (a CLP and Carnegie Museum of Art collaboration), and a batch of others.

Join the conversation.


1 Comment

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One response to “We Need to Talk

  1. These sounds like thought-provoking books, Julie! We also offer a club dedicated solely to the art of conversation: the Conversation Salon Series. One meets at CLP Main every second Wednesday of the month.


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