THE ART OF CONVERSATION – FRANCE VS THE USA


SANTA FE, NM.

LAST NIGHT  AT LA POSADA,  the hotel across the street from where I live,  I cushioned myself  fireside to read the newspaper.  The circle of conversation across from me was loud enough to hear and so I listened.

” The rental rates of vacation rentals has skyrocketed. We have a vacation rental in Colorado and it is always occupied.  You know you can make a lot of money, it is very hard work.”  It has taken many years to listen objectively rather than critically. I’m not underlining the narrative as much as why would they discuss finance in the midst of terrorist mayhem.

I sat there for at least forty-five minutes and the conversation thread did not waver from personal income.   I’ve approached the subject of terrorism with friends and acquaintances since Friday the 13th. Only one couple who’ve just relocated here engaged. The gentleman was born in Belgium and he was eager to share his European opinions.

Over the last few days I’ve been watching Sky News.  http://news.sky.com/watch-live. This is an international online station. The journalists report news, they do not debate, criticize, or condemn those they interview.  During the program the scenes in Paris, London, and around the world capture the public’s activity, conversations, triumphs and tragedy.  What this illustrates is that  conversation  in many US arenas must pass the political censorship exam.

I understand political discussions strike fiery bantering and this may cause a rouse and attract attention, and that is  unacceptable in respectful society. Not so in France!  For me, this truly illuminates the difference between our cultures.  They are educated in the art of conversation, and in love with expression.

When I lived in Malibu last summer, most of the guests of the owner were Parisians.  This artistic and  talented group talked without pause from dusk to dark, drank bottles of wine and smoked,  a mise- en- scene from the French salons of the thirties.   They raised their voices, shouted, laughed in unison, teased and taunted without restraint.  At the end of the evening cheeks are kissed, hands held, and appetites satisfied.

Discussion with the Queen of Conversation

Harriet Dautel Funk. San Diego Opera 2006

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