Monday, November 1, 2021

My Dream Dinner Party

 Q: You’re having a dinner party. Which four authors living or dead do you invite?

-from Susan 

Every Sunday in the New York Times Book Review section, some famous writer is asked a version of this question and I read them avidly. I weight their lists and imagine conversations. Now that I have the chance, I’m almost paralyzed.


I realize that inviting Will Shakespeare could be awkward if someone asked him if the Earl of Oxford really did the writing? I could see a sword fight breaking out. Of course, if we accept that he did write his own work, his genius would leave us breathless. In any event, it would surely be his show. We’d be thrilled but it would be a play, not a dinner party. So, regretfully, I will leave the Bard out, but will promise to re-read a play soon.


Jane Austen, yes. I expect she’d be a mordant wit, making sharp and funny observations, but always cloaked in a veneer of good manners and quiet grace. Her mind fascinates me. My only worry is that I’d wind up in one of her books in an unflattering portrait. 


David Sedaris, because one good wit deserves another. Unlike Jane’s, his barbs are aimed mostly at himself. I wonder if she’d enjoy him? I think so, because, like hers, his humor is sly, he’s an observer, and his family inspires much of his work.


Brian Doyle because, like a hell of a lot of people, I miss knowing he’s in the world. He won four Pushcart Prizes, published a lot of novels, lots of magazine pieces, and, posthumously, a collection of short essays that are full of his gentle but occasionally laugh out loud humor. I think he’d fit right in and he'd love being among them.


Barbara Neely, because she, like my other guests, enjoyed poking a sharp stick at people’s pretensions and delusions about the importance of social and economic class. She cherished some of her characters enough so that we did too, and made sure Blanche White found joy and self-respect in spite of the difficulties she faced. 


If I had a big enough table, I’d invite a dozen more, but my brain would be on overload just trying to absorb the collective brilliance of these four so I won’t be greedy. 


The menu:



Baked scrod with brown butter sauce

Pork medallions with barbeque sauce

Pommes de terre eau gratin

Fried greens

Tarte Tatin


Something for everyone?

Photo: Mark Jordan

Table setting: Mark Jordan


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Some interesting guests, Susan — and quite a spread too.

Brenda Chapman said...

What fun! And a delicious menu to boot.

Ms. Allison said...

My mouth is watering, and I hear laughter.

Susan C Shea said...

Thanks, all of you. I'm including you in the dinner!