Friday, June 17, 2016

Our Dining Room Table Actually Seats Six

By Art Taylor

I'm gonna need to modify this week's question—"If you could host a dinner party where the guests didn’t actually have to be alive, which three writers would you invite?"—for my own situation, since our dining room table actually seats six. 

And in answering it, I'm actually drawing on another time when I answered a similar question, over at the Mysteristas blog, from the week that my book On the Road With Del & Louise was first published.  

I love hearing writers talk about their craft—not just their own works but others' writings and then the craft of writing in general. Such conversations are possibly most interesting when differences of opinion reveal themselves—different approaches to writing, even different aesthetic sensibilities. Listening, for example, to the BBC radio interview between Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming isn't simply a glimpse at two masters talking about craft and character and process and more but also two masters talking at odds about some of these issues. (This is also a milestone recording, of course: the only surviving recording of Chandler's voice, so far as I know.)

Building on that meeting of masters, I'm going to work with pairs here—writers whose genres may be similar but whose aesthetics and technical approaches surely veer strongly away from one another:

Chekhov, already dressed
for dinner, it seems
  • Dashiell Hammett and Dorothy L. Sayers. I recognize that a more confrontational pairing might be Chandler and Sayers, given Chandler's pointed commentary about Sayers' work in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder," but Hammett is a personal favorite, of course.
  • Walker Percy and Anne Tyler. I'm a big fan of books with a philosophical bent, and I can imagine this corner of the table would prove awfully deep in that direction. Tyler is fairly reclusive, of course, so just getting her over for dinner would be a coup, and from what I know about Percy—like me, a big bourbon fan—he'd balance things out in terms of conviviality but always with a gentlemanly grace as well.
  • Finally, Tolstoy and Chekhov, drawing on my long-time interest in Russian lit (and timely now, with my continuing chapter-a-day reading of War and Peace this year). The two writers—masters each in his own way—did know one another, of course, but not always without friction.

The trouble here, I realize, is that having grown the party to six to fill the dining room table, there are no seats for my wife and me to join the conversation! Maybe that's OK, though. I'm fine to hover around the edges, serving the food and refilling the drinks—and listening, learning, soaking it all up. 


NEWS SINCE LAST POST: In other news, I'm happy to add that since my last appearance here, my book On the Road With Del & Louise has been named a finalist for the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. I'm thrilled with the attention the book has received this year—an Agatha Award win, an Anthony Award nomination, and now this tremendously good new. Very much looking forward to Bouchercon in New Orleans and to celebrating with the other distinguished finalists as well!


Paul D. Marks said...

Don't use your expensive crystal with the Russians. They'll just toast you -- several times, each time throwing the glasses in the fireplace.

All good choices, but especially love the choice of Walker Percy.

Art Taylor said...

He's a favorite of mine too, Paul!

RM Greenaway said...

Yes, everyone agreeing on everything is a snore, so some differences of opinion will make for a more interesting dinner. I'm sure you can find an extra table for you two, just pull it up alongside. Congratulations on all the attention your work is receiving - that's fabulous!

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, Rae! Yep, we can sidle up between a couple of people for sure--maybe dissipate any tension that might be building. Thanks for the kinds words on my work!

RJ Harlick said...

Ah another lover of Russian literature. I enjoy Chekov too, and Dostoevsky and Pushkin. But other than Pasternak, I'm not that familiar with 20th century and later Russian authors. Not true, I forgot about Solshenitsen. Loved his books. Sounds like you have the makings of a terrific evening of stimulating conversation.

Art Taylor said...

Ah, yes, Robin! I'm a fan as well. But like you, mostly 19th-century writers. Still, plenty of great reading there, of course!