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09 January 2010

Book Review: A Good Talk by Daniel Menaker

Title: A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation
Author: Daniel Menaker
Publisher: Twelve (A Division of Hachette)
Publication Date: January 4, 2010
Hardcover: 240 pages
ISBN: 9780446540025
Genre: Social Science


About the Book:

A GOOD TALK is an analysis of and guide to that most exclusively human of all activities-- conversation.

Drawing on over forty years of experience in American letters, Menaker pinpoints the factors that drive and enliven every good conversation: the vagaries (and joys) of subtext; the deeper structure and meaning of conversational flow; the subliminal signals that guide our disclosures and confessions; and the countless other hurdles we must clear along the way. Moving beyond self-help musings and "how to" advice, he has created a stylish, funny, and surprising book: a celebration of "the most excusively human of all activities."

In a time when conversation remains deeply important-- for building relationships, for relaxing, even for figuring out who we are-- and also increasingly imperiled (with Blackberries and texting increasingly in vogue), A GOOD TALK is a refreshing celebration of the subtle adventures of a good conversation.

My Review:

For anyone who has ever struggled with idle chitchat at a social gathering, for those more verbose who needs to get his or her point across in a more effective manner, or for anyone merely fascinated with language, A Good Talk is an excellent place to start. Written with wit and charm, Daniel Menaker keeps the reader engaged, informed, and amused. Beginning with the art of language, Menaker masterfully pares together scientific information with anecdotes, in this manner Menaker begins to discuss the various forms of communication and how to actively engage a meaningful, pleasurable conversation. Menaker writes a quick yet thorough section on the history of language and how, as a society, have we descended from the formal speech beginning with Socrates to the casual speech that currently occupies a vast part of American society, moving us further from formal speech to the extremely informal speech. Worry not, the reader is next instructed in the same gentle and witty manner on how to engage in meaningful conversation, all beginning with the handshake. Menaker takes the reader through a series of example conversations with Fred and Ginger to help the reader see the positives and negatives of conversation. FAQS (Frequently Arising Quandaries) including, but not limited to boredom, insults, the need to change the topic, and sarcasm are addressed and the reader is given resources to use should any of these FAQS arise. With splendid solutions to some of life's most common communication quandaries, the reader is left feeling, if not better prepared to properly communicate, at least well versed in the history of communication. Menaker does not fail to point out in this age of numerous means of communication, as a populous, our communication rate is at an alarming low. An altogether well rounded book, A Good Talk is witty as well as extremely informative and excellent for those interested in the history and evolution of speech as well as those looking to communicate more effectively. This deceptively short novel delivers a tremendous amount of verbal history and effective communication techniques.

About the Author:

Daniel Menaker has been a part of America's life of letters for almost forty years. As a writer, he has met and talked to thousands of people about their work and their lives. He is widely read and well versed in psychological literature and practices and, as an editor at Random House, has had countless meetings and other exchanges with writers, agents, public figures, and ordinary people. His own writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Slate; he lives in New York with his wife and their two children.

Visit where Daniel Menaker hosts episodes of The Title Page and posts blogs about literary works, authors, and issues.
Daniel Menaker is also a contributor on the

I received a free copy of A Good Talk by Daniel Menaker from Hachette as part of the tour. Receiving a free copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


1 comment:

Dan said...

Very kind words--thank you.

--Dan Menaker