Monday, March 12, 2012
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
DEBORAH CROMBIE:We've talked about which famous people (dead or alive) we'd all invite to our fantasy dinner parties. Mixing and matching any writer/artist/thinker from any era is fun, but it's a bit of cheat, really, isn't it, putting people together who would never have met?
Having recently seen MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (a bit behind on my Oscar viewing...) which I adored, I started to wonder two things.
First, if we could pick any group of writers/artists/thinkers, a "salon", which would it be? ("Salon" is defined by Wikipedia as: "... a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to please or to educate" ("aut delectare aut prodesse est"). Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, were carried on until quite recently, in urban settings, among like-minded people.")
Would we, like Gil in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, choose Hemingway's Paris? Or the Romantics of early 19th century France? And what about the Bloomsbury group in Edwardian England--Rupurt Brooke, Virginia Woolf and their set of writers, poets, painters, and philosphers? Or the Beat Poets of 1950s America?
My choice from my teens, and I think still, would be The Inklings, the informal Oxford University discussion group which met from the early 1930s to 1949, often at the Eagle and Child (the Bird and Baby) pub in Oxford, and included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis among its members. They read aloud from their works in progress--and I suspect downed a pint or two while they were at it.
Unfortunately, except for the occasional inclusion of Enid Blyton, all the members were male... Hmmm. Definitely a gender issue here. Maybe I should rethink Paris...
My second question is whether the physical salon is a thing of the past. In our mobile age, will like-minded artists and thinkers ever again come together as a group in a way that will influence contemporary culture--except on the internet?
And if so, is the virtual salon a substitute for midnight in Paris?
(By the way, if you Google virtualsalon.com, you get beauty shops.)
RHYS BOWEN: I think one would have to go back into the past to find a salon. I'm not sure why, but modern writers tend to talk about anything other than their writing when they are together. I've been at a meal with A list writers and not one of them has spoken of the angst of creation of a work in progress. Occasionally we bitch about the latest twelve year old publicist who has messed up a book tour, but mostly the talk is of non-writing related things.
I'm not a big drinker so I don't think I'd have fitted in well with Scott and Zelda and Hemingway in Paris, although it might have been fun--and I would have loved to have met Dali! But on the whole I'd prefer a gathering of women. Men tend to hog the conversation! I think Dorothy Sayers and her Oxford friends in the 1930s would have been entertaining.
JAN BROGAN - As we all by now know I'm totally hot for Herman Melville, I'd have to go with Anne Charlotte Lynch's Greenwich Village salon in the 1840s (also the period I'm researching). Besides Melville, who was a regular, Edgar Allan Poe allegedly read "The Raven" at the Waverley Place house, and Ralph Waldo Emerson supposedly came to hang out.
As for now? Salon.com, right? And Facebook groups, that's probably the closest you will come.
LUCY BURDETTE: In a great burst of serendipity, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS came to us from Netflix last week so we watched it Saturday night. So much fun! And such a Woody-Allenish leading man--we could picture Woody wishing he could play the lead but realizing he was a little too old...And can't you imagine how many trips to Paris that movie sold? Showed the city at it's absolute best.
Anyway, Debs, back to the subject--I'd choose Gertrude Stein's salon because it seemed like she could manage whoever came. I studied surrealism in college, actually wrote a thesis on Max Ernst, so I'd love to meet that crowd!
As for real salons today, maybe that's why we're still drawn to attending mystery conventions, even if we don't sell enough books to nearly pay our way. We're alone so much of the time--we love getting together with other writers and readers to gab! Speaking of which, 7 of 8 Jungle Reds will be at Bouchercon--really looking forward to that!
ROSEMARY HARRIS: I confess this is something I've never really thought about. I'd love to say "Oh yes! Vita-Sackville West!" and really mean it, but I'm quite happy talking to the dog and my husband about writing! And talking to myself, of course. My favorite salon takes place when I'm in the car talking to myself!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Rosemary, I do love you. (And I adored the movie. Especially the message that NOW is best. I did think, though, that Owen Wilson would never have been engaged to that woman in the first place. But, whatever.)
Anyway, thinking about this, what I'd prefer is to be INVISIBLE, and get to listen in as everyone else talks. Then I wouldn't have to worry about being clever or brilliant, I could just soak it all in. Stephen King, say, talking to...oh, who knows. Paul Simon. Wouldn't that be great?
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'd sort of like to say the Bloomsbury group for their amazing wit and talent, but I suspect all their adulteries and triangular relationships and seething semi-repressed homosexuality would be exhausting to be around. Sort of like freshman year in a dorm full of high achievers.
So instead, I'd pick Concord in it's 19th century flower. Hawthorne and Emerson, Alcott and Thoreau, and the Bostonians who were their friends, like the Peabody sisters and Margaret Fuller. Transcendentalism! Poetry! Women's rights! All amid the lilacs and maple trees of one of the most beautiful towns in New England.
DEBS: Oh, I can see us going off on SO many fun tangents... Hank, I think you definitely have a thing for Paul Simon... (and I agree that Gil would never have really been engaged to that horrible woman.) Jan, fascinated by the 1840s New England writers. Imagine having heard Poe read! (Isn't John Cusack going to play him in a movie? How fun is that?) Rhys, oh, to have eavesdropped on Dorothy Sayers and her chums... Ro, I talk to the dog, too, and I have a thing for Vita Sackville-West, but that's another post. Lucy, yes, 7 out of 8 of us--as Hank said, the whole point of the movie was that we should make our own glamor, and so let's hope that we do.
Readers, what group would you like to have joined? Or, would you, like Hank, have sat quietly in the corner and listened?