Talking Cure is a timely and enticing excursion into the art of good conversation. Paula Marantz Cohen reveals how conversation connects us in ways that social media never can and explains why simply talking to each other freely and without guile may be the cure to what ails our troubled society.
Drawing on her lifelong immersion in literature and culture and her decades of experience as a teacher and critic, Cohen argues that we learn to converse in our families and then carry that knowledge into a broader world where we encounter diverse opinions and sensibilities. She discusses the role of food in encouraging conversation, the challenges of writing dialogue in fiction, the pros and cons of Zoom, the relationship of conversation to vaudeville acts, and the educational value of a good college seminar where students learn to talk about ideas. Cohen looks at some of the famous groups of writers and artists in history whose conversation fed their creativity, and details some of the habits that can result in bad conversation.
Blending the immediacy of a beautifully crafted memoir with the conviviality of an intimate gathering with friends, Talking Cure makes a persuasive case for the civilizing value of conversation and is essential reading for anyone interested in the chatter that fuels culture.
“From the salons in France and the Literary Club and Bloomsbury Group in London to Harlem and the Partisan Review crowd in New York, Paula Marantz Cohen takes us on an epic tour of gatherings of intellectuals, revealing the essential role of conversation in the making of great thinkers through history. Given the appalling state of public discourse and growing ideological rigidity on college campuses, Talking Cure makes a powerful case for cultivating spaces for genuine, unhindered conversations—our future depends on it.”—Amna Khalid, Carleton College
“Weaving together famous conversationalists and conversations with her own intimate life experience, Paula Marantz Cohen gives Talking Cure the same vibrancy, spontaneity, and open-endedness we relish in conversation. In her hands, the art of conversation becomes a metaphor for the art of living.”—Roosevelt Montás, author of Rescuing Socrates
“Paula Marantz Cohen has written a book so lucid and bright the reader wants to respond, to continue the conversation she begins.”—Richard Rodriguez, author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
“We need to talk. We’ve all heard this uttered ominously, but Paula Marantz Cohen gives the need to talk renewed urgency, and ultimately joy. We should listen to Cohen, and respond in kind to her engagingly conversational study, whose ‘kinship is with Montaigne.’”—Scott Newstok, author of How to Think like Shakespeare
“Paula Marantz Cohen’s book, Talking Cure, is an intelligent, delightful, and refreshing addition to the analyses of our political fragmentation.”—Ashley Rogers Berner, Johns Hopkins University
“Paula Marantz Cohen’s book, Talking Cure, is a beautifully written study advocating a position that is both important and especially timely, the need for genuine conversation and respectful dialogue with those with whom we may disagree. Its own style is conversational, which fits the subject matter.”—Gary Saul Morson, Northwestern University
“In Talking Cure, Paula Marantz Cohen wears her learning lightly. Her purpose is to demonstrate how good talk, rather than good fences, makes good neighbors, and her book couldn’t be more relevant for a time in which political, ethical, and emotional disturbances are roiling our country and tearing at the very fabric of civic (as well as civil) life.”—Willard Spiegelman, editor in chief, emeritus, Southwest Review