Monday, March 12, 2012


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, 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?, right? And Facebook groups, that's probably the closest you will come.

: 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?


  1. Interesting Answers -

    I'm a wallflower in a group so I would most likely be in the corner listening.

    Writers - all of you, I'd love to be a fly on the wall when you all get together, you all sound as fun as Debs and I can see conversation flipping from one thing to another.

    Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, definitely, Agatha was my first "Brit" mystery author i read at age 7, Dorothy S. - fascinating mind with her Lord Peter character.

    I always envisioned him as a "Stephen Fry/Hugh Laurie" combo. Then I saw on PBS and they had Edward Petheridge playing LP, nothing against him, fine actor, but he just didn't seem the part most of the time,he was rather snippy with Bunter, who was too "stiffish" then I saw some where Ian Carmichael played LP - now that is how I saw him portrayed in Dorothy's writing, intelligent but also childlike in his eagerness at at times when "detecting" flipping from one thing to another and I've forgotton who played Bunter in the Ian Carmichael series, but he also "felt" like the real Bunter, I wish they had done all of her LP books with Ian. I digress, as usual.

    So I have 8 "modern" Jungle Red writers, Agatha and Dorothy. I really think I'd like to pull in a few actresses from "The Women
    (1939)Norma Shearer, Hedda Hopper, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland - love that movie. Ngaio Marsh, Marianne MacDonald, ah so many authors I love reading

    If I were to add Men to the melting pot for our entertainment - Justin Hayward, I can listen to him sing for hours, I think his voice improves with age - anyhow, quite the writer, would love to get inside his mind. George Harrison - another great writer and from accounts of family and friends, quite a fun guy. PG Wodehouse; interesting sense of humor

    Place: large camp/lodge on a lake, huge screen porch with fireplace, shaded sloping lawn to sandy beach, lots of comfy chairs spawled over the shaded lawn

    :o) sounds fun to me

  2. Hi Jungle Reds,

    This is a lot like sitting in on a salon. I'm happy here watching from the semi-sidelines.

    I might be tempted to join Madame de La Fayette, Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, in the 17th century literary salons of Paris. It would be fantastic to hear her talk about her historic novels.

  3. Midnights in Paris is yet another one of the Allen's classic, amazing movie that takes you back in time only as a book can do it, we can see Woody in every part of it though we can relate to the historical figures as well.

  4. Slide over a bit, Hank. I want to sit and listen, too.

  5. Oh don't be fooled, hank would never be on the sidelines!

    Mar, what a picture you paint!

  6. I watched a bit of The Women while I was on rowing machine this weekend - everytime they said "Jungle Red" I thought of us!

    Shout out to the Jungle Red readers I met at SINCNE Reads yesterday - Sheila, Tiger, was fun!

    You're my salon - the dog doesn't give me much feedback.

  7. This blog, and a couple others, are like salons. It's a fascinating way to take part in such discussions, while never leaving one's home, often still whilst pajama-clad.

    It never occurred to me before that a salon is what this experience most resembles, but it truly does. And I thank you all for inviting me to join in.

    And yes, men do tend to dominate the conversation, sometimes without even realizing it. I went to considerable trouble and expense recently for a dinner party for six friends, and made the mistake of seating the two dominant male personalities opposite one another. No one could have a conversation for the entire. evening. because they went at it, tooth and tong, oblivious to the rest of us. As hostess, I was unable to steer the conversation back, very frustrating.

  8. There was a Detection Club in London in the 1930s that included Agatha Christie. Dorothy L. Sayers and numerous other writers of the day. They were the ones who promulgated the "play fair" rule, among others.

    So I think it would have to be that!

    It is fascinating to me how certain groups come together in history and the arts and push each other to be better and more daring. I often look at the founding fathers and am amazed all those people could have been in one room--and where would we be without them?

  9. I think the Algonquin Round Table (Benchley, Parker, Kaufman et. al) would have been the most amusing. But I think I'd have gotten more out of the weekly lunches in Sarasota where John D. MacDonald and MacKinlay Cantor held court with local writers, throughout the 1950s and beyond.

  10. I'd love to have been a part of Bloomsbury with Virginia Woolf. Ro, I'd also drop in at your Transcendentalists' group in New England. One of my absolute fave writers was a part of that, Nathaniel Hawthorne. But the one I think I'd most like to be a fly on the wall for was the Dickens group. Many of the most famous writers of the day congregated around Dickens, as well as many of the most prominent social justice activists. They took long walks together, feasted, put on plays, read work aloud to each other, and generally had a great time. Also, Dickens (who was unfortunately a man of his times often in the treatment of the women in his life) was a huge encourager of women, especially women writers. He edited a number of popular magazines and bought the writing of many female writers when others wouldn't.

  11. Oh yes, the Detection Club and the Round Table (although I fear the latter would become rather annoying with Dorothy's constant barbed wit)

    But those of you who said that Jungle Red was our version of a salon--I'm flattered but maybe you are right. It is fun never to know what subject we'll be discussing each day and then reading all your comments.
    The only thing that is lacking is good food and drink to go with it. Someone fix me a virtual mimosa please.

  12. Here's your mimosa, Rhys. And I've set out a little brie and water crackers, along with some bowls of olives. Cheers!

  13. I agree with all who pick JRW as "our"salon. If we were to meet in person,I doubt that I would open my mouth -way too shy -but you can be sure that I would listen eagerly to everything that everyone had to say. I look forward to checking in here every day.

    INVISIBLE -I like that,Hank! I think I would also like to be able to travel back and forth in time so I could hover over every gathering of writers that interested me,and compare notes from one era to another! Maybe I could discover a Salon that has been unknown outside of the participants!

  14. Through he magic of Blogger editing, I just added my own thoughts to the conversation--ie, I'd opt for Unitarinism among the lilacs rather than Happy Valley in Bloomsbury Square.

    (You know, with all the real-life historical figures being turned into fictional detectives, I don't think anyone has ever used the Happy Valley crowd. Too high concept?)

  15. Do you mean Happy Valley in Kenya? i remember reading and loving White Mischief, which was about a murder among the ex-pats.

    I suppose in honor of his birthday one of us should mention Jack Kerouac. They probably had some wild parties...

  16. Mimosas! Brie and water crackers! Olives! This gets better and better. Mar, I love your setting.

    And I can't believe I left out the Detection Club! Especially when my friend Kate Charles has been inducted, and Marcia Talley and I actually got to go to the ceremony. We were in awe!

  17. I'd like to have hung out with Charlie Russell and the gang at his summer cabin, called Bull Head Lodge, at Lake McDonald in Glacier Park, oh say 1911-20. Some amazing folks visited there, though darned if I can remember names right now -- writers, artists, railroad folks, park rangers, and more. Hike or canoe during the day, hear tall tales by the campfire at night, and sleep in one of those lovely old log cabins with the water lapping on the cobble outside the window ... .

  18. There's a woman here in Portland who hosts a salon once a month. She serves absinthe, and invites artists to show their works, musicians to play, and writers to read. It's eclectic and so very Portland (if you've seen Portlandia).

    I think there could be a place for salons. Don't you think people (especially creative types) crave experiences that are NOT virtual?

    But then, I'd also love to bring actual letter-writing back into vogue. I guess that makes me a throwback.

  19. Lisa,
    My son writes for the New York Daily News's daily blog on the New York Literary World, and he recently reported that letter writing is making a come back -- especially among writers.

    So put away your keyboards everyone and pick up a pen!

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Lisa,
    My son writes for the New York Daily News's daily blog on the New York Literary World, and he recently reported that letter writing is making a come back -- especially among writers.

    So put away your keyboards everyone and pick up a pen!

  22. Lisa,
    My son writes for the New York Daily News's daily blog on the New York Literary World, and he recently reported that letter writing is making a come back -- especially among writers.

    So put away your keyboards everyone and pick up a pen!

  23. Sorry guys,

    Blogger kept telling me that I got the capsha words WRONG (which I always do) so I kept trying to repost.

    Sorry for the multiples, but I'm capsha-illiterate

  24. The Inklings have it, in my book; I would have settled for being a fly on the wall.

  25. Yay, Jan! I love cute stationary--I'd love to use it too!

  26. ...and the transcendentalists of Concord. They bucked all.

  27. Such a good thread. My picks;
    Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins, Dickens, too; then LM Alcott, Ngaio March, Doro Sayers, Agatha C and Daphne Du Maurier for certain!

  28. I'd say I'd like to see Poe in that thinking salon, just to add some macabre thinking into the mix. Then again, I don't think he'd like the thought of moving to france for these kinds of engagements.