Monday, January 15, 2018

Lively Dinner

Terry Shames here, with this week’s topic: the dinner party: who I would invite and where it would be held.

The last part is easy. It has to be at my house around my dinner table. I love to cook. I love to present people with good food and wine.


But who would be there? I’m looking for widely-read people with strong opinions and the thinking to back up their opinions.

My husband would have to be there, of course. He has a wide-ranging intellect and is not afraid to say he doesn’t know something. He is eager to learn. I’ve seen him equally interested in car mechanics, scientists, and students. When confronted with a differing opinion, his ego doesn’t get in the way of the conversation.

I want James Anderson. Not only did his 2015 book, The Never-Open Desert Diner fill me with awe, but conversations I had with him were deeply satisfying. I’ve read his opinions about authors’ work and he always has an interesting slant. He’s a gentleman and won’t allow the conversation to get out of hand. Besides, if I invite him, he might bring me a copy of his long-anticipated new book, Lullaby Road.

Camille Minichino has to be there. She’s one of those rare people who you sit down to converse with and before you know it hours have passed. She’s smart and has a deadly wit. And she doesn’t hesitate to say what’s on her mind.

If David Corbett isn’t there, it would be a shame. I love his writing. Each of his novels has depth and breadth. Did I say I want someone with strong opinions? Well, he provides that along with a great, shouting laugh. His wife Mette has to come, too. She of that warm smile, and the ability to hold conversation on her own as well.

Laurie King would be a great addition. Another author whose books I admire for their density. Because she seems quiet and self-contained, you may think she is a wallflower. But when she talks, she brings amazing energy to the conversation. I always come away from conversation with her thinking over something she said.

This gets harder as I come down to the wire. I think a dinner party cannot be more than eight people.

My last two: George Saunders and my friend Joan Waranoff.

I have always read Saunders’s brilliant short stories, and read Pastoralia with awe. I recently read Lincoln in the Bardo and was staggered. What an amazing imagination he has. The only thing I would worry about is whether he is so much in that dizzy head of his that he would not be much of a conversationalist. I once spent an evening in the company of Don DeLillo, and I’m not sure he said three words. I got the feeling if I could persuade him to talk, he’d be fascinating. To drag Saunders out, I’d have to seat him near my husband, the master of asking probing questions. Oh, and one little perk: Saunders is a fellow Texan.

As for my friend Joan, when I read a book that she has also read, I can hardly wait to hear what she has to say about it. We recently read a highly acclaimed novel, which disappointed both of us in different ways. Her comments made me laugh out loud. What she found irritating was something I never noticed, but once she mentioned it I couldn’t imagine how I missed it. As for opinions, she is content to hear what others say, and then she drops the bomb. She’ll keep it lively.

Wait! That’s nine. Oh, well. Who’s counting?

Oh, what to serve at this dinner party. It can’t be something fussy, because I want to be there for the whole thing. I don’t know who has dietary differences, so I have to have something substantial in every category. So the vegetable part it would be ratatouille—strong enough to stand on its own for a vegetarian; then chicken, because everyone likes chicken, and some people don’t eat red meat, and some people don’t like fish—I’d probably cook the Chicken Thigs with Lemon from Genius Recipes, by Kristen Miglore; and a lovely salad with goat cheese. Dessert? French cheese with honey and a dessert wine. Oh, about the wine. Something exquisite, both a red and white. And for those who don’t drink, I’d probably make a homemade ginger ale, which is better than most wines.

Maybe I’ll start doing this once a month. That way I can include all kinds of people that I long to include.


Unknown said...

Sounds so good... both the guest list and the food!

Paul D. Marks said...

Terry, congratulations to you and Jim on your Left noms!

Terry said...

I need to do this again with book characters! Thanks, Paul, it's exciting.