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Monday, September 1, 2014

The Schism, parts 3578 - 3581

 3578. The role that General Kutuzov found himself performing at these dinner parties was that of the director of conversation. He accomplished this task with invisible aplomb, and nobody ever knew he was exercising any skills at all. With a seemingly innocent question directed to the inattentive guest, or a quizzical clearing of the throat after someone’s too forceful statement, he directed the discussion from one idea to the next.

 3579. In order to direct a large conversation well, a person must be able to read the mental state of the guests at a glance. It takes an eye instantly attuned to the moods and attitudes of others. Not only that, but it requires a broad knowledge of history, the arts and contemporary affairs, so as to know what idea to bring up, and what to disregard.

 3580. Talk of ballet can lead seamlessly to discussion of opera, and from there to the latest museum exhibit, but a master of the conversation might unexpectedly introduce the topic of the change of garden design after the French Revolution, or the disappearance of the cravat in men's fashion.

3581. These ideas might be inserted into the conversation by the General because of his remembrance of the stage design or costuming of a new play, and the comment or question might be directed to a Countess known for the landscaping of her classical gardens, especially if that very Countess seemed to be losing interest in the festivities.

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