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A sticky conversation

Kate Kellaway is disappointed by a little book about conversation which suffers from runaway enthusiasm undone by preciousness

By Kate Kellaway   March 1999

At the end of each chapter of Theodore Zeldin’s An Intimate History of Humanity (1994) is a list of “suggestive” reading. Zeldin hopes that his bibliographies will enliven readers “in the same way as a few drinks might be served after a meal to allow the conversation to expand.” Zeldin’s analogy charmed me at the time-as did his exotic, compendious and mind-stretching book. And so, when given Conversation as a Christmas present, I was predisposed to like it, confident that it could be as quickly and enjoyably downed as an ap?ritif.

It is a peculiar experience to read, silently and…

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