A talk review of 'Ten Walks/Two Talks'
CUNY Graduate Center
Thursday April 12, 2010
Louis Bury: Do you want to eat a little?
Corey Frost: No, we can eat while we talk. Even though it’s not stolen, I think it’s appropriate. I’ve been thinking about how much we’re imitating their process … Like that quote you sent me — which was from where?
Bury: Oh, the Dave Hickey quote? Do you know of Dave Hickey?
Bury: Tayt found this pamphlet at St. Mark’s Bookstore, a transcript of Hickey’s course lectures on “L.A. Noir.” He’s an art critic, apparently, who’s known for being sort of a renegade cowboy, you know, does whatever he wants to do. At any rate, the quote was about how whenever he discovers something artistic that really moves him or fascinates him, the first thing he wants to do is talk to a friend about it. It’s a very Beat thing — that kind of exuberant conversation.
Bury: And I think that’s an interesting model for what we’re trying. But in a way, the conversational ideal never gets met. I think the movies are a pretty good example …
Frost: Right. You walk out of the theatre, and then you’re expected to talk about it. And I always have a hard time.
Bury: Yeah, right, that’s exactly it. Actually engaging with the thing in conversation, the engagement tends to be superficial. What’s the first question everyone asks? “Did you like it?”
Frost: Which is shallow. But the problem … you know, my relationships with other people who, sort of, read and write for a living, often don’t revolve around reading and writing. And maybe the problem with living an intellectual or artistic life is that you can never entirely have the pure intellectual or artistic life that you think you should, because you’re stuck in the world.
Bury: Yeah …
Frost: But what’s so great about Jon and Andy’s conversations, actually, is that they seem to have a friendship that allows them to … not bypass the mundane, but somehow manage to transcend it. But I don’t know how much that’s an artifice after the fact.
Bury: Or, or — did you say “artifice”?
Frost: Yeah. I mean, how much …
Bury: Touched up, and made to … It’s hard to know.
Frost: And not to interrupt, but …
Bury: No, I like, I like being interrupted.
Frost: We should explain what we’re talking about.
Bury: Oh yeah.
Frost: So, this is a review of Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch’s book from Ugly Duckling Presse, Ten Walks / Two Talks. And, um … what?
Bury: Well, it’s kind of, what we were just saying about when you go to a movie and you say, did you like it or not like it, I think we’re kind of resisting that impulse, although …
Frost: But I feel like if we were … because it’s a review, if we just said up front, is this a good book or not, then we could have a lot more freedom to meander after that.
Bury: Well …
Frost: Is it a good book?
Bury: Yeah, I think it’s fantastic. But, uh … what do you think?
Frost: I think it’s a great book. It does what I think poetry is most valuable for, which is — it’s not a book that I just enjoyed while I was reading it — it’s a book that made me enjoy other things more after having read it.
Frost: You know, it’s a book about walks, and about observation …
Bury: about New York City …
Frost: and walking here to meet you was more enjoyable …
Bury: yeah, no, it’s a book about conversation, too. And it contains a small selection, as I understand it, from larger works. The ten walks come from Andy’s Sixty Morning Walks. And the two talks come from their project, Conversations Over Stolen Food, which, I don’t know how big it is, but I’m imagining it’s pretty big.
Frost: They keep speaking of it as a project that’s sort of ongoing.
Bury: Andy told me once that he had decided — I don't know if has stuck to this resolution — that he would continue the Sixty Morning Walks project for sixty more years.
Frost: That’s being optimistic about your life expectancy. It’s difficult to interpret this book outside an understanding of their relationship — which comes through very clearly, because even though Andy wrote the ten walks, and the two talks are a conversation between Jon and Andy, I feel like the whole thing is a dialogue. Even in Andy’s walks, it’s as though he’s talking, and I imagine that the audience is Jon.
Bury: That’s interesting. What’s your sense of their relationship? Maybe I look at Jon and Andy’s book, and their friendship, and, you know, I romanticize it.
Frost: I look at it with a certain degree of envy, for sure. But also, I mean, it’s interesting that they have chosen to be a writing duo. They do all these things together.
Bury: Yeah, I was going to say — it sounds like in your mind they’re kind of insepar —
Frost: Well, on several occasions I’ve asked Andy to participate in something and he’ll always say, well, can I ask Jon? Which is just something that you don’t usually encounter in poetry circles. People are egotistical enough usually that that’s not an option. And I find it really interesting.
Bury: It may imply a lack of egotism, but I think there’s also an advantage to it, in that artistic worlds can be hard to navigate. And having someone who is a go-to person, a natural built-in support, is a really — I don’t want to say clever way of doing it because that makes it sound preplanned — and one thing I like too, while we’re romanticizing their relationship, is that they started out just as friends.
Frost: Yeah, it was a random meeting. This was not in the book — I don’t remember now where I heard it, but there was an apartment that they ended up staying at, at the same time, and, uh … they were both sort of crashing without paying rent, and one of the actual roommates left for the day and both of them basically decided at the same time that they would commandeer the bedroom so they could sleep in the bed. And so one of them went into the room and found the other one there, and it was … the start of a beautiful friendship.
Bury: I didn’t know that story.
Frost: It’s interesting, too, that it starts with this story of … I don’t know if they actually, you know, accidentally crawled into bed together like a “Three's Company” plot, but peppered throughout the book there’re all these kind of …
Bury and Frost [together]: … homoerotic …
Frost: … overtones, of, you know, sharing beds …
Bury: … staying over until four in the morning … dancing around in their underwear …
Frost: Yeah. “We danced in my kitchen the other night. At least I was down to my underwear.” Which is delightful. I don't want to make too much of it, or suggest that this is odd somehow, I mean, I’d like to think that this is how male friendships can always be, regardless of sexual orientation. There’s a passage, too, where they move away from a group of men who are being too macho, with too much testosterone.
Bury: Yes, that seemed important. Like they were reluctantly among the cast of Jersey Shore.
Bury: Do you watch that show?
Frost: I’ve never seen it, but I have absorbed it accidentally through the media ether.
Bury: My own little mini-theory of it is that it’s in many ways the apotheosis of the genre. And this won’t be as much of a tangent as it appears, because I think there’s actually a relationship between what Andy and Jon are doing recording themselves in these various ways and let’s call it a post-Real World era, or YouTube era, in which people are increasingly, I don’t know if they’re comfortable, but they know what to do when they get in front of a camera. Although I think their appropriation of such a trope — Andy and Jon’s — is very different.
Frost: So you think this book might be a kind of highbrow reality poetry?
Bury: I mean, that makes it sound a little … I don’t think that’s their intention at all. I’m saying it’s in the air. It’s of a piece with what goes on in the day-to-day world, with how young people experience being represented or watched or existing in the world.
Frost: But the difference, of course, would be the writing.
Bury: Right. The talks are a form of writing, but in the David Antin tradition of spontaneous and improvised and oral. While the walks are more conventionally written.
Frost: I mean, Andy’s technique was basically walking every morning and then coming home and writing about what he had seen.
Bury: Yeah. For sixty straight weekdays he took a sixty-minute walk around Manhattan and then came home and wrote sixty sentences about that walk. Mostly sort of describing what he saw, how he felt as he saw it. I see it as an exercise in observation. There’s a George Perec quote in Species of Spaces where he talks about observation … he’s sitting in a café in Paris, being very French, looking out on the square, saying he wants to observe the everyday. The concept he comes up with is the “infra-ordinary” as opposed to the extraordinary. He says, “the newspaper headlines tell me nothing of what's going on in my day-to-day life. How do I transcribe that and capture that?” And so he says, in order to do that you have to set about it “slowly, almost stupidly” … And I find that a really, uh, suggestive notion. That in order to observe things better — particularly the familiar — your observation needs to dumb itself down. And slowness as a value is something I’m fascinated with. Walking is a slow activity, particularly in a world where information can be accessed so quickly.
Frost: Mm. One of the things I like most about Andy’s writing is that it’s very tentative. You see it especially in the talks. He never says anything definitive; he’s always looking for the confirmation of his partner. The conversation itself is mostly questions. It’s perhaps less evident in the walks, where Andy’s writing it himself, but it comes through in the way things are expressed. [Searches through book]
Bury: You have an example?
Frost: Not an example, but this is a line that I felt expressed the essence of what he is trying to do in the walks. It’s just the end of a sentence. It says, “I wanted to know this world with me walking through it.” It’s not just “I wanted to know this world,” it’s the interaction of the world and me.
Bury: Yeah, no, I would agree with that. I would also say that the unit of the sentence, in this book, is really important. That seems to me very much the unit of organization.
Frost: Yeah. I think the walks in particular are sort of a very good advertisement for prose poetry.
Bury: Mm-hm. And I like the way its lyricism sneaks up on you. He’s never straining after poetic language. He’s not using … To my ear, it doesn’t always sound high poetic, but there are these really unusual or awkward locutions that become utterly riveting.
Frost: I absolutely agree. It’s almost as though the poetry comes through accidentally, because basically there’s a pragmatic attempt to record observations, record the walks, while the talks are themselves literally recorded, but accidentally poetry comes through.
Bury: I think what you just said is important, about accidents. There’s that moment in one of the talks, when they’re walking, and one of them says, “by ‘culture,’ I mean near-accidents.”
Frost: That was a great line. He says that learning to drive in a parking lot is not a luxury of space, it’s distance from culture. You need to get away from the possibility of colliding with other people in order to learn to drive — which means you need to get away from culture.
Bury: But I like the idea … you described the book, kind of in passing in an email, as producing an aleatory effect. I’d never thought of it as aleatory in a strict, “Oh, well I’m using chance, I’m flipping a coin or rolling a die,” but the structure allows for these really fortuitous accidents. In a way, constraints are a handy mechanism for producing accidental poetry.
Frost: Yeah. And just having to interact with someone is a constraint in itself. I was going to say … I wanted to compare it to My Life, the Lyn Hejinian book, which they mention in one of the talks. Because in some ways they’re in the same genre. I mean, Ten Walks / Two Talks is basically an autobiographical book.
Bury: And My Life is also a book where the basic unit is the sentence — and there are some quite remarkable ones in there — but they feel very engineered. The sentences.
Frost: Yeah. But I don’t know, this whole question about allowing poetic accidents to happen, you could just argue that poetry is always accidental. You can’t really engineer great poetic lines. You have to try to make room for them to happen.
Bury: There’s something in what you’re saying that made me think that Andy and Jon’s talks are very much practiced. And by that I don’t mean they’re rehearsed. It’s kind of like teaching — the more you do it …
Frost: It’s a skill.
Bury: Yeah, exactly. In other words, some of it is accident, but in a weird way what they’re doing through their artistic exercises is training themselves to talk …
Frost: They are highly trained in having conversations, over stolen food, with each other. It’s like an Olympic sport — a very odd little activity, but do it consistently enough and you become very good at it.
Bury: Yes. It’s an interesting question, though, one that I think is raised by Antin’s praxis also. Okay, I’m going to record myself giving a talk or doing something mundane. You run the risk, when you operate that way, of narcissistic self-indulgence. And I think collaboration with others is a way of avoiding that pitfall.
Frost: You know, the book kind of highlights the fact that — people don’t think about this much perhaps but it’s obvious to anyone who has a friend — that each person has a personality, but there is also a personality to relationships.
Frost: And this relationship, between Jon and Andy, has a particularly quirky and entertaining one.
Bury: Yeah, yeah, no, I agree and I mean, it’s an underutilized … I mean, I think there’s such a thing as conversational knowledge, right, knowledge that’s kind of superficial and fleeting?
Frost: And this is what David Antin manages to produce that I mean … it’s surprising to me that more people don’t use his technique because ideas, um, you know, seem to come so much more easily in a conversation, especially a good conversation, than when you’re sitting by yourself.
Bury: In a way, the life of books sort of lives in conversations or what use you make of them. And the other quality I associate with conversation is a kind of nostalgia for the fact that you’re going to forget it.
Frost: Yeah, it’s ephemeral. But it’s easy to think that what you’ve said is brilliant if you can’t hold on to it.
Bury: Yeah, that’s the experience of, you know, not being able to sleep and getting up to jot down some brilliant note. And the next morning it’s rubbish.
Frost: Yeah. But, ah, to provide a counterpoint, because we’re sort of nudging towards this concept of collaborative thinking as so much better … looking at the ten walks in the book, which are an individual’s attempt to record something in writing, there’s not a lot of name-dropping. But in the two talks, which are collaborative, other texts come up and other writers become a part of the conversation. They spend a lot of time talking about Plato, and they …
Bury: Like the writing-speech hierarchy.
Frost: mention poets like Claudia Rankine and, um, Rosmarie Waldrop, and then they mention …
Bury: Have you read the Rankine book?
Frost: uh, Thoreau and Emerson. Yeah, that’s great.
Bury: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I had never heard of it, but picked it up after reading Ten Walks.
Frost: And then in the more individual, you know, personal observations, where Andy writes about his walks, that name-dropping doesn’t exist. And maybe for me there’s something a little bit sad about it, that when you’re talking with someone else you need to, um, approach ideas through names.
Frost: So that you’re not talking about ideas directly, you’re talking about so-and-so writes that and so-and-so writes this.
Bury: In a way, the names come to stand in. But I know that, at least for me, I never have felt self-conscious about doing it. It’s just an easy kind of synecdoche for a whole set of ideas.
Frost: Well, that’s how it’s justified, as, you know, shorthand for something that would take a long time to explain otherwise.
Bury: Yeah, and that we probably couldn’t explain on our own. I’m suggesting the reason why names function this way, with such authority, is that we retain so little of what we actually read. It’s part of the danger of our methodology, in a way, because we’re mostly going from memory and therefore risk being in some way superficial.
Frost: I think that’s absolutely true. That’s kind of my problem with the naming convention. I mean it’s a problem only in this sense, that it provides authority, or credibility. I mean, imagine this book, Ten Walks / Two Talks, written by someone who didn’t have a graduate education. Okay, so the book has Hiroshige prints on the cover and the blurbs on the back say it’s like a modern day Basho and they talk about Wittgenstein, and you know … imagine this book written by someone who doesn’t have access to all those markers of cultural status.
Frost: Then it’s basically just someone walking through New York and describing their experiences and then getting together with a friend and talking. In essence, the book would have a lot of the same wonderful interesting things going on, but it would not have the same credibility with the social circles that will read this book.
Bury: Right, and those markers perhaps make it harder, or less likely, for the book to be read outside those social circles.
Frost: Yeah, exactly. I mean, for someone who isn’t familiar with avant-garde poetry and classical philosophy, even just on the level of name, it’s just distracting.
Bury: But the other side of that, I think, is that, in a way, this book can’t come into existence — you can disagree here, cause I’m not sure I believe this myself — this book can’t come into existence without that sort of art-historical, philosophical framework. In other words, you have to be conversant in Plato, know about the speech-write …
Frost: Well, do you really have to or does it just enhance it? I mean …
Bury: Well, I’m suggesting that it’s a byproduct. I’m suggesting that to conceptualize the project in the first place you would probably have this kind of background.
Frost: You don’t become a conceptual artist …
Frost: unless you have sort of, in some sense, passed through Modernism already. On the other hand, on the third hand, you know, I feel like you could have an interesting conversation that was just names, just tossing names of writers and artists back and forth because they stand in for so much. The name of a writer becomes a term that has connotations and denotations that just go so far down.
Bury: Oh, I completely agree. And we might think too of, you know, Gertrude Stein …
Frost: Speaking of names.
Bury: … in this context, right, where the act of naming, a poetic act, has to do with loving the thing, with caressing it, with addressing it. But you can spot the people, who when they invoke a name, they’re kind of wielding it like a baton. And then you can spot the people, and I would list Jon and Andy among them, who say it out of reverence.
Frost: Uh-huh. I mean, I don’t know if it’s reverence, exactly, but I — to put the record straight, I admire the way Andy and Jon use names. When they bring up, you know, the Phaedrus, or when they talk about Diogenes, they’re doing it because they’re excited by the ideas.
Bury: Yes. That’s what I mean by reverence. Not that they worship Plato.
Frost: Yeah, right. But that it’s in service of, um …
Bury: their intellectual-artistic … joy.
Frost: Yeah, joy, exactly. Let me tell you about one of the most influential statements I’ve heard during my career here at the Graduate Center. We were talking about Charles Olson and whether or not he is given his due recognition. And someone suggested that, in order to ensure that new poets read him, they said, “Maybe it’s enough to say his name over and over again.” And at the time, and still, I thought to myself, that’s so ridiculous … there’s something so fascistic about it, I guess, like just … you know, impose this name on people and that’s going to be enough to make them understand, in some way.
Bury: I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing, but I think that’s an accurate description of how familiarity typically works in various spheres. It’s the process by which someone makes a literary name for themselves, or becomes Lady Gaga.
Frost: Yeah. But at the same time, I have to admit, superficiality allows you to cover a lot of ground in intellectual conversations. Of course people put careers into analyzing Olson, but then he gets assigned a meaning. If you read everything he ever wrote, which would take some doing …
Bury: I’ve read a fair, I’ve read a fair, I mean I’ve read The Maximus Poems.
Frost: Uh huh. And what did you take away from them?
Bury: I remember like two or three lines. This whole, you know, uh, sound itself being “neoned in.” Uh, “kill, kill, kill those who advertise you out.” And those are from, like, the early — “Polis / is eyes.”
Frost: Right, and maybe those are valuable lines. I guess what I’m saying is a poet like Charles Olson comes to represent particular ideas. That’s not to belittle his importance, because his body of work therefore represents something important in our culture. But it’s enough, you know, I don’t have to explain those ideas, I just have to say, “Charles Olson.” Because at a certain point you need a system of shorthand.
Bury: And in a way, what we’re suggesting is a very Olsonian idea, cause there’s that passage, which I’ve always found very suggestive, where he says that the postmodern condition is one of quantitative overload. And I mean, if he felt information overload in 1950 …
Bury: I mean the dismissive way of putting it would be we’re boiling authors down to catchphrases. That, you know, the Beats are, “First thought best thought.”
Frost: Yeah, it’s a very sort of first-year literature class kind of approach to ideas.
Bury: Well, I think what’s interesting is we’re suggesting the opposite, in a way, that you build up, you spend years of study, you develop this literary intellectual sophistication …
Frost: So you have the ability to boil it down to the essence.
Frost: But, so, the nice thing about this book …
Bury: Yeah, heh.
Frost: … actually, is that it’s the best sort of interaction with that preexisting economy of reference and economy of cultural status, because there is name-dropping going on in the book, in that they acknowledge their debt to previous writers like Lyn Hejinian …
Bury: But it’s so …
Frost: but it’s just natural, I mean, these are two people who have become immersed in a certain culture and they’re enjoying it, you know, they’re making use of it.
Bury: Yeah, and I think that they sort of straddle that tension between careerism and pleasure.
Frost: Yeah, that’s interesting, because, you know, Andy, in the conversations, and actually, in the walks as well, there’s a few repeated references to Andy’s job hunt.
Bury: I don’t even remember that.
Frost: It’s not an explicit theme in the book but I think that it does address, you know, how do you deal with careerism? Because careerism is something that’s inevitable to some degree, not just for academics, but for poets. It forms a big part of poets’ lives in the twenty-first century.
Frost: Whereas Jon seems a little more of a wild card. He’s sort of the Neal Cassady figure in this book. Part of what makes the book so compelling is the reality — uh, I won’t say TV — the reality poetry aspect of it. It’s a glimpse of a friendship; it’s a glimpse of experience, the walks …
Bury: And those glimpses can be exciting. I think it helps that there are no tropes or conventions to this literary genre. It’s different from reality TV in that we don’t know what to expect.
Bury: Maybe there are a few parallels with Kenneth Goldsmith’s Soliloquy. One would be the voyeuristic parallel. I think it’s fascinating, you know, to see what this artist is doing in his loft or what they’re doing when they’re having their conversations.
Frost: Dancing in their underwear.
Bury: Yeah, yeah, there’s that appeal. And we’re flirting or skirting gossip, too, at points. Actually, it’s one thing we haven’t talked about, but it’s important to the book in various ways, and important to literary culture in general. Kenneth Goldsmith’s notion is that canon formation is purely a matter of gossip.
Frost: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.
Bury: There’s also the appeal — and maybe this happened more to me with Soliloquy, but it happens a little bit with their conversations — you then perceive yourself perceiving your own conversations in a slightly different way. You’re more aware of their rhythms.
Frost: Yeah, how much are you analyzing or thinking about this conversation you and I are having right now, in terms of, is this like the conversation depicted here? It’s sort of the tragedy of representation in a way. Because once something is represented to you it becomes harder to experience that thing in an unmediated way.
Frost: It also struck me, because they talk so much about New York and Andy’s walks happen in New York, did you get the feeling that this is — ah maybe this is a cliché way of approaching it — but that this is a book that could only happen in New York?
Bury: I thought you were gonna say, “Did you get the sense that this is a New York book?” Because, if the question is, could this only happen in New York? Well …
Frost: Then, no.
Bury: Heh heh. Yeah, case closed. No, but actually, I’ll try to make that argument briefly and say that New York, more than most other major American cities, is deeply concerned with walking.
Frost: Yeah, yeah.
Bury: And that’s part of its rhythms, so maybe you could go on walks in Madison, Wisconsin, you could do it in Los Angeles. But one question I asked at the end of my essay on Sixty Morning Walks was, I knew Jon was going to continue the — not Jon — Andy was going to continue the practice for sixty years in Wyoming, or at least that’s what he said, and I kind of wondered what would that do to the practice? That’s such a different milieu.
Frost: Well that’s, I mean, the walks here are so much about human interaction. He doesn’t really have many conversations with people while he’s walking, it’s very, um, individual and contemplative, but there’s so much eye contact.
Frost: And commenting on people’s actions and the way people interact with each other. There was this passage where he sees this woman, I think he describes her as an Asian woman, and she’s wearing a …
Bury: … bowler hat, and she needed his gaze and he delivered it.
Frost: Yeah, exactly. “She needed my gaze and I delivered it.” What is that? And there’s this passage near the end also, just one page that’s a very lyrical description of why it’s fun to walk in New York City. They’re dialoguing and Andy says that he doesn’t have a destination so he’ll go down side streets when necessary, and Jon says, “Sure I love in this city the constant dialogue between drivers and pedestrians. It also …” And then Andy, “And let’s say delivery men.” Jon: “Exactly.” Andy: “Street vendors.” Jon: “What great …” Andy: “And hangers out, hangers about on the street.”
Bury: Heh heh.
Frost: “Yet another great …” “Men, moving carts.” “Go ahead, yeah.” “Yeah, you feel this great sense of cooperation. Also of smoothness, I find.” “I’d experience panic in a calmer city early evening hours when I’d just snap.” And they talk about how movement and continuity is the norm in New York …
Frost: and how people sort of expect that from each other, and how if you pause then you’re causing inconvenience to the other people around you.
Bury: And within that exchange, heh heh, when Andy keeps interrupting Jon, and he says, “And street vendors” and he just gets carried away with the list … he can keep listing things and gets carried away with it. And here you become aware of the artifice of the transcription, because as you were saying that, I was chuckling throughout, right?
Frost: Yeah, ha ha.
Bury: But now if we were to render that, if we don’t cut it, how do you, I mean, have me go “hee-hee” as, you know, you can’t.
Frost: Heh, well, we’ll have to try, but — I think that one way that I you and I fall short in terms of trying to imitate their style in doing this review is that we’re being polite and waiting for each other to complete our thoughts.
Bury: That’s possible.
Frost: We’re having a conversation in which, you know, I say something and then I pause and then you say something. Whereas they’re really having, it’s almost like there’s two conversations going on, overlapping. That’s part of what makes it so fun. You’re really watching the dynamic of how their conversations fit together.
Bury: Yeah, there is a sense in which their conversations in particular, the streams of dialogue are like billiard balls colliding …
Frost: Well, you know, I’ve had friends, I mean it depends on the dynamic, but I’ve had friends where …
Bury: But see, you just interrupted me there, right?
Frost: Sure, sure.
Bury: But you didn’t think, I didn’t think of it as an interruption.
Frost: Well, some interruptions are not — I’m doing air quotes here — some interruptions are not really interruptions because you can sense when someone’s …
Frost: … done with his thought and winding down. But I’ve had friends where I had a conversation with them and we’re literally talking over each other. And you’re both absorbing and producing content at the same time and it can be a lot of fun. But then the content becomes less important, it doesn’t matter whether you get exactly what the person is saying, it’s just the interaction.
Bury: It’s the exchange.
Frost: It’s the exchange, and the motion and the, um, just the excitement. It’s like a contact sport.
Bury: A-heh, a-heh.
Frost: You’re sort of — it’s like running together.
Bury: So the motion they describe as being inherent in New York is very much present … there’s like a kinetic energy …
Frost: It’s in their conversation.
Bury: to their conversation.