Taking a riff from NPR’s story last week about which deceased composers Miles Hoffman would invite to Thanksgiving dinner, I pondered the same question for authors and asked quite a few friends. Here are the guidelines: which dead authors would you invite to Thanksgiving dinner? Which author would you invite to give a reading Thanksgiving evening?
In my unofficial survey (meaning you saw me in the last couple of days or responded to my Facebook status update), Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain were the big winners. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and Leo Tolstoy came in a close second. Just tallying the most popular loses the charm of creating a conversational grouping. One person had Shel Silverstein, C.S. Lewis, and Roald Dahl at the table, all authors who wrote for children and adults at the same time. Can you just imagine the potential rant on current media saturated childhoods? It would be gripping.
Another friend had an all Russian table: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Anton Chekov. My son’s first comment was “no Russians” regardless of the fact that his favorite novel is The Brothers Karamazov. I’m a huge fan of Russian literature (one of my college majors was Soviet Studies, I’ve read and enjoyed them) but I kind of understand, a Russian table would make for a loooong dinner. I’d throw Virginia Woolf in with them and label the table: Depression Eats. I’d add Hemingway, but I worry that he could feel needlessly inadequate and start acting out, plus he would require a lot of expensive wine with dinner.
Mark Twain is a hands down winner here and what an evening it would be! Imagine what he would write about the current state of our nation? He was never a fan of politicians and this year would give him a lot of fodder with which to work. For me, a very close second, maybe even a tie, would be Charles Dickens. He was famous for his readings and the magical evenings they created. Although many put him on their invitation A list, I think he may be too much of an attention hog for a dinner party; I like conversations, not monologues.
One friend suggested inviting Julia Child since it is a meal. That is way too intimidating for me. It occurred to me though, rather than a reading, the performance could be watching Julia Child cook Thanksgiving dinner for all of us. That would be a meal not to miss.
After talking to so many people and hearing several ideas, it’s hard to come up with one. Since it’s my post, I won’t, here are my latest thoughts:
Fiction and Spirituality: Fyodor Dostoevsky, C.S. Lewis, and Flannery O’Connor, all three beautifully interwove an excellent story with spiritual themes accessible to everyone. It would probably be a good idea to include Henry Nouwen who didn’t write fiction, but seems amazingly gracious. The table may need his charm.
The US and Europe: Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Somerset Maugham, all authors who could write a beautiful tale that portrayed their own society and time, but tended to have a broader view of the world. Austen less so, but if I’m going to raise any authors from the dead, she’s on first gravy train to dinner.
The Power Table: since it’s my post and I can do what I want to, this table is full of women who carved a path in their fields and, ultimately, for the rest of us–Dorothy Parker, Lee Krasner, Coco Chanel, and Eleanor Roosevelt. I’d ask Abigail Adams to sit next me, then write a letter to John describing the dinner and share it during our evening reading.
Who would you ask to your Thanksgiving dinner?