Saturday, February 06, 2010

Conversation (The Art Student's War)

I was moved by this passage from Brad Leithauser's The Art Student's War:

Bea had never known anyone so easy to talk to about nothing—although none of this felt like nothing, their rapid-fire chatter: oh, it felt like something, it felt like life itself.

Bea is falling in love, of course, and she's eighteen, and the sentence captures the breathlessness of falling in love at that age.

The passage also struck me in linguistic terms: "chatter" is a type of speaking that is often disparaged, but from a linguistic perspective, "chatter" is just as important as conversation that is full of "important content." And the passage captures its importance: "chatter" creates bonds between people, even when they are "talking about nothing."

A vague version of the above crossed my mind when I marked that passage, so I was pleased to find the following two pages later, as a kind of summary of what I had been thinking:

It was as though their remarks were gifts to each other—conversation as an exercise in gift giving.

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