Is small talk a thing of common substance or of avoidance?
1. Small talk as common substance: To speak small talk with others is to build relations based on a mutual lightness of spirit. Although I'm empathetic to this notion in terms of 'social warming', small talk functions best as an ancillary to something else, such as dancing or disruption: lobbing a boot at a psychopathic politician and calling him a dog after he has fucked your country.
The Dancers Inherit the partyWhen I have talked for an hour I feel lousy –Not so when I have danced for an hour:The dancers inherit the partyWhile the talkers wear themselves out andsit in corners alone, and glower.
2. Small talk as avoidance. The natural territory of small talk resides within the localities inhabited by the bourgeoise and petit bourgeoise. It is here that small talk is rarely allowed to become 'big'. It can be cut off with eye rolling, polite refrain or bodily squeamishness that breaks the social engagement. Small talk as a natural language modality of the middle classes is predicated on older religious boundaries of shame and embarrassment developed since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This is when art, incidentally, turned from a practice of everyday social activity, practiced by numerous, to one where the artist became sublime and individualistic – the development of the capitalist construct of the genius; worthy of marketing and cultural exploitation. The cult of the nice is society's modern, secular equivalent – here the genius has a happy disposition (see the likes of John Cage), or for an alternative, winter baby's view:
On middle class povertyThe poet's teeth are rotten.The poet doesn't drive.The poet has an empire in the mind.The poet writes the god.The poet is assassinated.The poet's unAustralian.Patrick Jones (listen to this poem here)
NB. I'm writing this post after coming home from a party where I engaged in mid-sized talk and ate beautiful food and drank local plonk, all for which I'm passingly grateful.