Thursday 27 November 2008


That supersmooth purveyor of the higher nonsense Alain de Botton has been at it again. Clearly he's all for the art of conversation, is Botton, and happy to help it along with a carefully chosen 'menu' of topics. There's a thought to chill the blood. It's hard to imagine anything much more dispiriting than being at a dinner party with Botton and his menu cards - unless, of course, it was dinner with the French windbag Theodore Zeldin, who seems to have given Botton his bright idea in the first place. 'It's almost impossibe to be bored when people tell you about what they are scared of or whom they desire,' declares Botton. He may well be right - put perfectly possible to be repelled, embarrassed and suddenly mindful of an urgent appointment elsewhere.
Here are all the conversational menu cards anyone needs:
The Weather.
What Do You Do Then?
House Prices.
Schools (if age-appropriate).
Something on Telly.
The Food (appreciative noises only).
Drink hard enough and these will get you through any dinner party.


  1. There's a Monty Python sketch based on exactly that idea, isn't there?

  2. Wow, I'd forgotten all about Prof TZ. I saw him in the local Halfords about six months ago. He was standing around staring at a rack of headlight bulbs with a far-away smile, as if contemplating a tray of delectable pastries. I dived down another aisle. Headlight bulbs don't sound his thing, so I'd guess he'd wandered in by mistake.

    I retired from dinner parties a while back. So dull. Why on earth were they invented? Mental nanny horror stories and the shocking cost of killing pheasants were usually good for a wind-up.

  3. Zeldin in Halfords - there's an image that will stay with me....

  4. You should properly call him de Botton not Botton.
    And he's not just written an article, he's actually set up a school with conversation menus. Check out this extraordinary link:

  5. O dear god - thanks for that, anonymous! I only call him Botton because it sounds silly and faintly rude.

  6. I dunno -- I rather like Alain's ideas. At least, the few of them I've read in excerpts from his various books.

    Of course, I also love dinner parties -- provided the guests are people I really enjoy and want to be with. Good food, flowing wine, convivial conversation... What is better than that?

    Dinner parties with boring or irritating guests (blow-hards dominating the convo, or p*ssing off guests with their views on religion or politics) are something else altogether. Avoid at all costs!

    Mark, when you get yourself to Philadelphia, I shall host a dinner party for you with delicious food and fun guests. Your mind will be changed.

  7. The one I particularly liked used to be "and what sort of car are you driving at the moment?" the reply was the same, every time, "one that's paid for in full" followed by exit left or right, as appropriate.
    We never, ever attend dinner parties now, stomach churning.