Daniel Menaker

Dan Talks to John Marks @ Purple State of Mind

Monday, March 29, 2010

Check out this new Q&A with Dan and John Marks of Purple State of Mind, an interesting and influential blog.

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Back to Fiction?

Dear Mr. Menaker,
Just writing to tell you how much I enjoyed “A Good Talk…” I’m featuring a little bit more about the book and your (wonderful) writing on my blog this week. Thought you might like to take a look:
www.kathleengerard.blogspot.com
Wishing you much continued success. BTW, will you ever return to fiction writing? Sure do hope so.
Cheers!
Kathleen Gerard

Dear Mr. Menaker,

Just writing to tell you how much I enjoyed “A Good Talk…” I’m featuring a little bit more about the book and your (wonderful) writing on my blog this week. Thought you might like to take a look:

www.kathleengerard.blogspot.com

Wishing you much continued success. BTW, will you ever return to fiction writing? Sure do hope so.

Cheers!

Kathleen Gerard

Dear Ms. Gerard,

Thank you very much for your kind words (and kind post) about “A Good Talk.” They are much appreciated.

About returning to fiction: I would very much like to do so, yes, but have not yet figured out what direction to go in. I feel on the verge of something, but maybe that’s just the rheumatiz acting up with the nor’easter blowing in.

Thanks again, and, me and my book aside, keep up the lively, smart blog about good books.

Dan Menaker

“Ask Dan” was a public online Q&A series that ran on this site from 2010 to 2012.

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The New York Times Sunday Book Review

Monday, March 22, 2010

“It takes nerve to write a book about conversation, given the well-conceived examples already on the market — Cicero, anyone? In this breezy primer, Menaker, a former executive at Random House, adds an urbane, contemporary cast to the discussion of what makes for good talk and why, drawing on everything from the dating scene to New York publishing gossip to studies on the hormone oxytocin to (how could he not?) Barack Obama.”

Read the full review here.

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Online Social Networking

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hello Dan,

I heard your interview today on WLRN and found your conversation with Joseph Cooper very insightful.

My question to you is about popular social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace and similar sites. I conducted a small survey at a local college and found that most students (at the campus) preferred to add a person as an online friend over actually approaching the person in the flesh and starting a conversation.

Do you feel that the average American college student would prefer to trade his or her conversational skills for a profile on Facebook?

Ivan C. Figuereo

Dear Mr. Figuereo,

First of all, thank you for the kind words about the interview. Mr. Cooper is a terrific interlocutor.

About your question ( a good one): Meeting someone in person, especially a first meeting, generally carries with it some anxiety, conscious or unconscious. Almost always, we want to make a good impression and are at least a little concerned that we may not. Facebook and other social networking sites significantly reduce that anxiety, because people can a) hide behind anonymity or pseudonyms; b) edit whatever they say before posting, so as to decrease the chances of making conversational mistakes; and c) deliberately play up or play down characteristics and appearances that are present only in face-to-face meetings.

So yes, I do think that some young people (and many older ones as well) will and in fact do limit the number of new people they meet in the flesh in favor of online connections, as your survey indicates. And I think it’s too bad. I think it takes courage to encounter people in person and know that they will be responding to your whole self, as you will be responding to theirs, without the scrim and disembodied words of the Internet or the telephone. And that kind of social courage is admirable, and essential to our species. It’s one of the reasons statesmen and businessmen still find it necessary to make personal visits in doing their work. And it holds the potential of enormous rewards for everyone.

Dan Menaker

“Ask Dan” was a public online Q&A series that ran on this site from 2010 to 2012.

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I Stand Corrected

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

This is not a question, Dan, but I couldn’t figure out how else to reach you. I’ve just finished (and enjoyed, often laughing out loud) your new book but spotted an inaccuracy in the bibliography. You may know this already but, in case not, CONVERSATIONS OF SOCRATES was translated by Robin Waterfield, not Robert.

Cheers,
T.

P.S. Haven’t seen you near my garden in Riverside Park for ages.

How embarrassing!  Where’s the hemlock?

Thanks, T.  Hope you are well.  And thanks for the perduringly beautiful garden.

Dan

“Ask Dan” was a public online Q&A series that ran on this site from 2010 to 2012.

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Small Talk = Perilous?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Here’s an interesting little blog post about the possible relationship between small talk and unhappiness.  The experiment in question appears to be flawed in a number of obvious ways, but its conclusions nevertheless seemed to me to be true to a phenomenon I’ve often observed: a kind of weariness or sense of defeat among those who for whatever reason stay on the surface of conversation.

http://trueslant.com/wrayherbert/2010/03/01/the-perils-of-small-talk/

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I Am Not Checking My Amazon Sales Rank Right Now

Monday, March 01, 2010

The only concession I’ve made to being a neurotic writer is to check fairly regularly* my Amazon sales rank and reviews for “A Good Talk.”  Oh, OK–I’ve also Googled the efforts at explaining Amazon sales ranks. But that’s it. I swear. Haven’t bugged my publisher, haven’t looked for where (and if) the book is displayed, haven’t harrassed the publicity guy, haven’t beleaguered friends and family with my highs and lows. As a publisher, I saw far too much of this behavior in others, and the person it ends up having the most deleterious effect on is the writer himself or herself.

The rank has been as high as 45 and as low as 12,000 or 13,000.  When I last checked–and I won’t tell you how recently that was, lest you get the wrong (that is, right) idea–it was about 6,000.  After a while you get used to this sort of metaphorical freestyle skiing course and can be at peace with it. And that rank isn’t bad at all. But the reviews!  The negative ones hurt in a way I didn’t expect they would, mainly because like most painful criticism, they hit a nerve. And because as far as I know, the negative reviewers are untainted by influence, personal opinions of me, or the need to curry favor.  So they just say it: “Disappointing.” “Elitist.” “Thinly disguised liberal agenda.” “Boring.” “Supercilious.”  And so on. I bet the system won’t allow you to do  no-star reviews, because if it did, I would surely have some.

The book itself counsels people to take seriously remarks in conversation that seem like insults or criticism, because often they contain a grain of truth that it might be helpful to think about. One Amazon reviewer said he put down the book because it has the word “aesthetical” on the first page.  I have to admit that he has a point.  There is some truth in the general consensus among poor reviews that my “voice,” insofar as I have one, is Eastern/literary/liberal and sometimes ironical.  Some people like that kind of diction–I’ve gotten many good Amazon reviews as well–some don’t.   But if and when I write something again, something book-length, I mean, I will in fact try to use plainer speech if I possibly can and if it comes naturally.  I do tend toward sesquipedalianism, and a certain arching of the eyebrow (the origin of the word”supercilious”).

Now I must run back to Amazon, in the hope I’m higher than 5,000. That is said to be a watershed number. I remember when I used to think that word was pronounced “water’s-head.” Hadn’t yet learned irony.

*less than the frequency of the #7 subway line in New York City

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