Thursday, November 4, 2021

Will and Jane and Dot and James, by Catriona

READING: Borrowing from the NYT Q&A with authors: You’re having a dinner party. Which four authors living or dead do you invite?

It is so tempting to cheat on this question by pretending I misread it, and go for fourteen and a table extension. (I've got one in the garage that my dad made.) Or even forty, although that would have to be a buffet.

But if I'm really going to hold it down to four, it's pretty easy.

1. Shakespeare. Who else? How could you get the chance to meet any dead writer and choose another one? There are so many questions: what happened in Love's Labours Won, Will? Who was the dark lady? Why in the name of the fairy king did you not get one good copy of each of your plays, sign them, and put them somewhere safe for later? 

Also, I'd like to show him his Wikipedia page, and his Google hits and say howzabout that then? You, sir, are all that and yonder bag of chips. And I'd like to say sorry about your wee boy, and we haven't forgotten him; he's still talked about four hundred years later.

2. Jane Austen. I'd want to say thank you for doing what you did because without you I wouldn't be doing what I do. I'd want to tell her she is still unsettling insecure men two hundred years later and they don't even know she's doing it. (They think the problem is with her. Snort.) Oh and I want to know how Sanditon was going to play out, and what was in some of the letters she made her sister destroy. I'd show her the Colin Firth P&P and the Keira Knightley one and get a ruling. And I'd feed her up and try to instill the rudiments of nutrition and germ theory and maybe she wouldn't die and we'd have twelve instead of six and fragments. Oy.

3. Dorothy Whipple. I love Dorothy Whipple and she deserves to be better known than she is. Her modest oeuvre of domestic fiction from between the wars is quietly magnificent. I want to show her the beautiful dove-grey Persephone editions of her work. Also, I think she and Jane would get on well, while the rest of the guests were being . . . how can I . . .?

4. probably the best way to explain is that my final guest would be James Baldwin. A few years ago I'd have asked him along to show him that things were getting better. Now, I'd ask him along to see if he had any wise words that could help us stop things getting any worse. And I'd love to see him sparring with Shakespeare (as he would) and I want to know if Jane would wither him or if he would slash her to ribbons. I'm not sure who my money would be on out of the pair of them. Or maybe they'd bond.

And on the bench - in case any of my four flounced off in high dudgeon; I'm the first to admit they're a motley crew:

1st alternate. Robert Burns. He's my favourite bard (sorry, Mr S), but there's no mystery about his life. He put it all out there and made it rhyme. So, while for fun he'd be unsurpassable, I wouldn't be left with questions if he stood me up.

2nd alternate. PG Wodehouse. For laughs. For wit. For another chance to show another dead writer a Wikipedia page and say look at your legacy. 

And the food would be prepared by Nadiya Hussain, who is an author but would be attending as a cook, so that means I didn't cheat.

What a night thiswould be. It would warm my bones when I was old, remembering. 



Ann said...

Could I come to wait table and wash up! Thanks in advance.

Catriona McPherson said...

Ann, you're in. Bring your own apron.

Susan C Shea said...

Oh, Catriona, we had a lot of the same instincts, and your reasons why are perfect. My hesitation about inviting Will is who else would even speak, given the chance to listen to him? But I'm with you on feeding Jane and sending her home with vitamins and herbal meds. I love your take on our star-studded dinners,

Wendall Thomas said...

I love this so very much. I would be willing to be an appetizer to attend.

Judy Bobalik said...

I'm not familiar with Dorothy Whipple. Which book do you recommend?

Lori Rader-Day said...

If I served at the table, I wouldn't count, right? And I could listen in from nearby? And have some of the leftovers Nadiya made? And hug everyone and shake hands and cry?