Slate's handy guide to small talk.

Slate's handy guide to small talk.

Slate's handy guide to small talk.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
July 14 2006 2:56 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Slate's handy guide to small talk.

Slate offers you a quick and easy guide to help you fake your way through overly cultured cocktail parties this weekend.

It's unlikely that your weekend gathering will be as violent as Toby Young's book party was the other night, but just in case you're itching for a confrontation, here's what to do: Invite two men who have had an ongoing feud ever since one of them got the other fired from his job as a gossip columnist because of something he wrote about the first one's affair with a much-younger woman (it's slightly more complicated than that, but you get the idea). Ply them with drinks, and get ready for the inevitable rumble.

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You'll have to push back your planned Sopranos-viewing parties, because James Gandolfini had to go bang up his knee riding a Vespa and now the start of the second half of the final season has been delayed. Deadwood gatherings just don't have the same vibe, unfortunately.

You can't wait to get your hands on New York Times Style section scribe Alex Kuczynski's forthcoming book about plastic surgery—if only to be able to better tell which procedures your friends have had done.

In the meantime, pick up a copy of Katha Pollitt's Virginity or Death! and think about Ana Marie Cox's attack on it in the TimesBook Review, which Tom Tomorrow, Pandagon, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Salon agree was rather pathetic. Pollitt, on the other hand, doesn't think a bad review is all that, well, bad.

Odds are that at least half your party has been divorced, is considering getting divorced, or will be divorced sometime in the future. Hopefully none of them owns an expensive Manhattan townhouse.

Show of hands: How many members of the Association of Poetry Podcasting are in the house?

Forbidden topics: head-butting, Barbaro, Owen Wilson.