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British journalist Blyth was once described as "the person you hope you'll find at the next cocktail party-or the person you'd like to be." The next best thing is a close encounter with Blyth on the printed page. Adopting a chatty, conversational manner to write about conversation, Blyth mixes personal anecdotes into a salmagundi of selected quotes from anthropology, history, literature, philosophy and pop culture to analyze and give advice on the dynamics of good conversation, not to mention the perfect riposte for every situation. She examines everything from small talk to pillow talk, from riotous raconteurs to crashing bores, from flattery to false smiles. The key is listening: "Good conversation is a team sport; pace and energy keep it alive." Blyth probes layers of language, humor as social engineering, baiting, lies, flirting, evasions and failed shoptalk, such as how "miscommunication lost Xerox the PC." Witty, eloquent and insightful, Blyth's book is a delightful encouragement to rediscover conversation as the best communication technology. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.