JAN BROGAN - As I've been mentioning as of late, I've been reading Moby Dick and developing a huge crush on Herman Melville even though he is dead. Quite dead. By crush, I do not mean that I am loving the book itself. Although I AM LOVING the book itself, the prose, the adventure, the romanticism. The complete genius. What I mean by developing a crush on Herman is strictly personal. I feel as though, if I couldn't marry him, I'd at least want to sit next to him at a dinner party and monopolize his time.
And not just to get a blurb!
I am enthralled by his observations about life, people, even the whales. I think he's got an awesome sense of humor, and that I could banter with him for hours. And of course, it's totally, maniacally presumptuous, but I sort of feel like he and I would understand each other. (I am also picturing him tall, handsome and alpha male, but I won't go into all my delusions.)
And I've felt the opposite about male authors, even while liking the books. For example, when I read the Witches of Eastwick by John Updike, I felt that no matter how great an author he was, I just really didn't like that man. I was convinced that he had only a egocentric view of women (and I'm pretty sure that was the book he wrote to address criticism by feminists.) Even though one of his short stories is my all time favorite, I am sure that if I had to listen to him talk about himself at dinner party, I'd get up and move my seat.
So Reds, what dead authors would you like to sit next to at a dinner party. And who would you like to avoid?
ROSEMARY HARRIS: I guess one of us should say Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers but I'd rather sit down with Robert Graves who wrote, among other things, I,Claudius and Claudius, the God. I was addicted to that television series and read both books and since then a biography of Augustus and one of Livia. What an incredible time. And how Graves humanized them. I'd want to know how much was fact and how much was fiction!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Jan, now I have to put Moby Dick on my to-read list!!! Can't believe I never have. But then I was always reading those English authors...
I'm going to cheat, and pick not one, but three, with the occasional fourth: C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien (and sometimes Dorothy Sayers.) The first three were part of an Oxford group of writers who referred to themselves as The Inklings. They met for regular discussions about their writing at a pub in Oxford called The Eagle and Child (affectionately known as The Bird and Baby.) Sometimes Sayers would join them.
From the time I was in my teens I wanted more than anything to be an Inkling, to have that sort of intellectual support and camaraderie. My first trip to England, I went to Oxford, and of course made my pilgrimage to The Bird and Baby. I'd still give anything just to sit and listen to them talk.
Avoid? Too many to list. Mostly having to do with American literary male angst.
RHYS BOWEN: I think I'd find most dead male authors pretentious and patronizing to a woman who dares to write books. They'd mention my "little scribblings" then ignore me,I suspect.It would be fun to sit down beside Jane Austen because I bet she could give some lovely witty and bitchy asides about the other people at the dinner table. I'd also enjoy being with some of those 20s and 30s women--Gertrude Stein. having adored Midnight in Paris, or Virginia Woolf.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Edith Wharton. Can you imagine the scathing dinner-table conversation? I'd add in Dorothy Parker and Patricia Highsmith. We could be all catty and socially superior and talk about living abroad and the failings of American society. Dorothy would drink too much and Patricia would smoke too much and Edith would point out how sadly lacking the wait service was. Nothing like it had been when she was a girl.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, absolutely. Edith Wharton. Number one choice. Then-Truman Capote. And Thomas Wolfe. And Shakespeare. F. Scott and Zelda, for sure. And Agatha Christie. Love this idea! (Hallie will cook, right?)
JAN: Definitely F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I think Zelda would annoy me. She was always diving into pools as I recall.
HALLIE EPHRON: Are we having dinner? Then most definitely Julia Child. And to make sure I mind my manners, P. L. Travers (Mary Poppins). And Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Little Princess and The Secret Garden and a gazillion other titles). And Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables.
LUCY BURDETTE: I just want an invitation--you all have done such a good job. But I don't think we should have Hallie cook if the women are likely to complain about the help....
JAN: How about the rest of you, which dead authors would you invite to our dinner party and who would you shun?