Dinner Party for Six

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

So after battling two bizarre bouts of benign positional vertigo (who knew there even was such a thing?!) and a case of Laryngitis I have to say inspiration is a bit thin on the ground at the Langley-Hawthorne house, so I thought ‘who would I want over for dinner to help liven things up?’ To limit myself I went for ‘dead writers’ only – much more fun (and, hey, I am the historical author after all). Although the choices are vast, I also wanted to focus on those who would inspire me the most as I try (once the world stops spinning) to finish the third Ursula Marlow book.

Voila! Here’s my list for my ‘dinner-party-for-six’ (my husband gets to go out and eat with the boys while I entertain the spirits of writers past):

  • D.H. Lawrence – so I could get the low down on use of flowers as sexual imagery:) and ask how to really write a good sex scene
  • Daphne Du Maurier – to feed off her Gothic vibe
  • Jane Austen – so I could ask her (a) is she a vampire? and (b) how does she feel about Pride & Prejudice becoming a new bestseller as a ‘monster mash’ with the living dead? I could also do with her as a muse for some really good one-liners
  • Nancy Mitford – because she must have been such a savage wit and I need more of that in my life
  • Ted Hughes – tragic, hunky, talented poet – I can always use that kind of help (really, need I say more? – though I spent my adolescence despising and blaming him for Sylvia Plath’s death)
  • And me…of course!
There are many other ghosts-of-writers past whom I would dearly love to entertain, but this is the list of those I feel I need the most right now…

When you lack for inspiration who would be your ‘dinner-party-for-six’ picks and what would ask them?

11 thoughts on “Dinner Party for Six

  1. Hmmm..
    Not all of mine are dead, but I’d love to chat with these blokes.

    Frederick Forsyth
    Harry Patterson (aka Jack Higgins)
    Anton Myrer
    Steven Pressfield
    Stephen Crane
    The bloke who wrote Beowolf (the original saga from 700 AD)

    What would I ask?
    Did any of that stuff really happen to you?
    If not how did you learn to describe it in such depth?

    (I did read that Forsythe did actually help finance an attempted mercenary take over of a corrupt African regime)

  2. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hammett and Chandler for sure (although the booze bill would be a tad high). If I could get them to talk, I’d want to hear their thoughts on style. It would probably end up with Hammett and Hemingway facing off against Fitzgerald and Chandler.

    Then maybe John D. MacDonald to talk about productivity, professionalism and raw storytelling.

    And William Saroyan, just to have one out and out eccentric, but one who wrote for the sheer joy and (often) rebellion of it.

  3. Many years ago I had the pleasure of having dinner with Shelby Foote and he introduced me to Walker Percy. That is an ideal dinner crew. I knew Shelby and had many long conversations with him. He introduced me to the writings of Cormac McCarthy, whom he called the finest writer of his generation. And he was a friend of Faulkner’s, and they walked Shiloh Battlefield and Faulkner’s description of the battle (according to Shelby) was one of the reasons Foote wrote his narratives of the Civil War.

    Amazing the power of conversation and what one discussion or shared experience can do for you.

  4. My dinner guests would be:
    William Shakespeare
    H.G. Wells
    J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edgar Rice Burroughs
    Ian Fleming

    My question to all would be, “Would you blurb my next book?”

  5. I’d have to say Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt because they are the two authors who made me think I might want to be a writer (although I write nothing like them). I loved their books.

    And maybe Poe. Just because.

  6. John, I’m envious because I always wanted to meet Shelby Foote! I loved watching him hold forth during the Ken Burns Civil War series. I guess I would also say Truman Capote, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, and, oh, heck: Harriet Beecher Stowe. Then I’d just sit back and watch her and Shelby talk about the Civil War.

  7. Some great dinner companion ideas here and John I’m jealous! Joe, wouldn’t that have been cool to have these guys as ‘blurbers’ – sigh!

  8. Oh my. . .Isasc Asimov, just to listen to him, Roger Zelazny because I love his characters, John D. MacDonald for perspective, Donald Westlake to tell him he left much too soon, and Tony Hillerman, so we could talk about New Mexico.

    But then I’d want another dinner party with a slight more time-tested crowd, including Shakespeare and Chaucer, Mary Shelley and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

    Or another party would be Dorothy Parker for sheer wit and snark, Helene Hanff because she’s one of my heroes, Shirley Jackson for her complexity, Mary Stewart because she captivated my imagination.

    What a great exercise, Clare!

  9. Oh…speaking of Stewarts, I’d like to add Martha Stewart to the party. Ya know, for the setting and all that. She’d know how to make it just right.

    And of course she can give us an insider look into jail life too.

  10. I think I have enough dinner party ideas for a lifetime – such a shame we can’t have all of these, though the booze bill would be pretty high for them all!

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