Mastering the Art of Conversation

Henry Kissinger’s assertion about power notwithstanding, conversation is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

And, to stay within the rhetorical realm of this grand strategist of geopolitics and Germanic heritage, his Teutonic accent infusing even the most banal sentences with a sense of gravity befitting negotiations between the United States and Russia, allow me to cite a comment from another great conversationalist, Christopher Hitchens; who, with his Oxbridge voice and (mostly) unrivaled ability to talk, remains — in this miniature contest between the United Kingdom and the Hun — the most notable hater of the life and public career of “Dr. K”:

To my writing classes I used later to open by saying that anybody who could talk could also write. Having cheered them up with this easy-to-grasp ladder, I then replaced it with a huge and loathsome snake: ‘How many people in this class, would you say, can talk? I mean really talk?’ That had its duly woeful effect.

Hitchens could talk — for hours, fueled by wine and gin (in his Campari), as well as generous doses of Mr. Walker’s amber restorative — with nary a miscue, a stumble (verbal or physical), or an inaccurate or misquoted source, delivering his bons mots about everyone from the aforementioned “mammalian” (Hitchens’s word of derision for Dr. Kissinger) to Princess Diana to Mother Teresa; whom posterity records, via YouTube clips and sundry interviews, magazine columns, a polemical book (The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice) and a documentary of the same title, as “a lying, thieving Albanian dwarf”; or so Hitchens claims about Mother Teresa.

All this pales, however, before an even more brilliant conversationalist; a fraternity of which, I should add, would be incomplete without the presence of that other target of Hitchens’s disgust and condemnatory prose and speeches: The man from Hope, Arkansas, and the forty-second President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, whose oratorical accomplishments are, though few and unforgettable, memorable because of their lies and evasions about, respectively, not having had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky, and “experimenting” with but not inhaling marijuana.

Still, “Bubba” has the gift.

The greatest of them all, with his divine-like baritone of history and authority, maximized by the cadence of his words and the carriage of his being — a latter-day Churchill, with the cigar and theatrics of that most indispensable leader — versed in the language of Gibbon, Shakespeare, Macaulay and the King James Bible; the Boy Wonder from Kenosha, Wisconsin, Orson Welles.

Or, as I like to say:

If you can talk, you can get anything you want.

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