We know you love a hypothetical! So, you are the literary dinner party host extraordinaire... You can invite anyone you like from literature, living or passed, fictional or real. Who are you inviting, where are we going and what are we having?
I love this question, I think I probably have several variations of answers I could use, but this one was easy!
For setting I'd have to choose Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, it'd be entertainment and a beautiful location all rolled into one. Plus, I've always felt a little like going down the rabbit hole and meeting the Cheshire Cat so I can't imagine anywhere better! Weird, wonderful and stunning; it's the perfect place to host a dinner party to remember.
My first guest would be Rob Anybody, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld for pure entertainment, ridiculousness and just because I've always wished I could meet a Nac Mac Feegle. He would be rowdy, sweary and totally inappropriate, I'd love it. My second guest would be Robin Williams, although he isn't a fictional character or exactly literary, he brought so many characters to life and I would give almost anything to have a conversation with him. My third guest would be Holly Jackson's Pip, from A Good Girl's Guide to Murder. She's zesty, interesting and notices everything. A little mystery at the dinner table never hurt anyone!
For food, I'd want a full blown buffet of all the best fictional foods. Frobscottle from The BFG, cauldron cakes from Harry Potter, the infamous chocolate cake from Matilda, the midnight feast foods from Mallory Towers, James' giant peach! The list is endless, I want to eat almost every delicious-sounding, fictional food I've ever read about! It would be fantastic and absolutely not a balanced meal at all.
That's my fantasy dinner party, perfect location, interesting guests and a smorgasbord of foods I've been dying to try my whole life.
First things first, location is important and I can't think of a better literary location for a dinner party than Bag End in Hobbiton. Bilbo's pantry in The Hobbit is a thing of beauty. Of course, we'll have to make sure we don't invite any dwarves or there'll be no food left for the rest of us. However, they do an excellent job washing the dishes and I wouldn't turn my nose up at a rendition of Misty Mountains.
A young Bilbo will host and cook. We'll have freshly caught mussels and freshly baked bread, followed by a spicy seafood stew with plenty of king prawns and of course, more bread. We'll also drink numerous bottles of red wine before moving on to the king of white rum, Wray & Nephews Jamaican Overproof.
As for guests, it would be rude not to invite Gandalf while we're in Middle-Earth. I'm sure he would regale us with stories of his travels through that magical world that Tolkien created. Our next guest would be the character Dulcie from Ben Myers' book The Offing. Ever since I first read that book, I've wanted to meet her and sit with her while she talks about poetry and art and the beauty that can be found all around us. Plus, I can't help but wonder how mesmerising the conversation would be between Dulcie and Gandalf.
Our third and final guest would be Kurt Vonnegut. He's one of my favourite authors and I'd love to pick his brains for an evening. I find the way that he views stories and the writing process itself fascinating. I think I could learn a lot from a few hours in his company.
After dinner, we would sit and talk for hours and then go to sit in the grass and watch the stars while Gandalf paints magical scenes with the smoke from his pipe.
I’m not really into fancy dinner parties, so I’m chucking the idea in favour of a gaming night.
I think for a setting, the most appropriate thing would be to borrow Aech’s private chat room from Ready Player One. Comfy couches, vintage games and the world’s supply of 80’s pop culture films, TV shows, books and magazines. At any time, it is acceptable for dinner guests to pick up some reading matter or a handheld gaming console and nerd out in a quiet corner for a bit.
And now to the dinner guests. I’m inviting Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Jim Butcher and Rick Gualtieri. I thought about what sort of conversations I’d enjoy being a part of and I’m pretty sure that these giants of science fiction, mystery and fantasy would have plenty to talk about that I’ve love to join in with.
We’re starting with nachos, Coronas and a game of Dungeons and Dragons. I’m bringing in Terry Pratchett to cameo as our dungeon master. I think Sir Terry could MC us a fairly epic adventure…
For the main course we’re ordering pizza and cracking into the good red wine. It’s time to fire up the gaming laptops and go on some MMORPG quests. I personally think Conan Exiles is a good choice but I also believe in democracy, so of course we’ll vote.
Dessert will be cookies and custard over board games. We’ll have Cluedo, Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit (because I stand a chance of holding my own at that) and Monopoly.
It’s not very games-nighty but I’m a sucker for a cheeseboard, so we’re having one, along with Irish coffees. We’re going to play no-holds-barred Who Am I, maybe a hand of Poker or two, and a round of Shithead or Exploding Kittens. He’s not from literature, but Next Gen’s Commander Riker is invited to join us for cards and coffee; just to see if any of us can out-bluff him.
And the best thing? If this was for real, you’d have to roll me home at the end of the night and I’d have one hell of a headache the day after. Hosting in the Oasis means that none of those calories really count, so we can enjoy the feast guilt-free. And at the end of the night, you just clap your hands and think of home - no clean up required!
First of all, my dream dinner party has to be one I have no prior involvement with. No planning, inviting, table-laying, inviting, seating-planning or any other arrangements are to be done by me. In fact, I am to know nothing about any dinner party until I come downstairs from a lovely nap, miraculously presentable in comfortable, yet stylish clothes, only to find everyone already assembled and food on the table. That way I have no time to get anxious about anything, and I can dive in.
So, what are we eating? A Mexican feast. Crab nachos, fish tacos, guacamole, barbecued fish with chilli, coriander and lime...big flavours, no fiddly cutlery to get in a muddle with and everyone diving in together. There’ll be margaritas, and tequila, and cold Corona to wash the food down. I don’t drink alcohol any more in the real world, but in this fictional one, I do. Hangovers don’t exist and booze makes everyone witty and even more erudite, and not the slightest bit over-emotional or fat.
Now the important bit. Who’s there? Well, there won’t be many of us. In an ideal world, there’d be me and a pile of books, but that’s not playing the game properly, so I’ll allow guests...
Of course, I’m going to have William Shakespeare, so I can tell him I think he’s completely wonderful, and apologise to him for all the heinous crimes I’ve committed against his writing, in the name of secondary education. I also want to ply him with alcohol, so he’ll tell me who the Dark Lady was, and give him a copy of Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, as I think he’d love it. And of course, having him there might keep my other guests in their place. We know that writers do love the sound of their own voices, so a bit of humbling won’t hurt them.
Next, I want Shirley Jackson. They say don’t meet your heroes, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t be able to resist. Mainly, I just want to listen to her in conversation with other writers. If she was anything like as darkly funny and world-weary as her Good Housekeeping column suggests, I think we could have a riot exchanging stories about motherhood and general witchery. I’d also like to read her tarot cards.
Lastly, I think I’d need to have PG Wodehouse. I want to find out how he managed to cultivate the astonishing work ethic that saw him publish 96 novels in his lifetime; I want to know if his verbal sentences were as perfectly crafted as his written ones, and, above all, I would just like to meet the man who comes across in every sphere as a spreader of sweetness and joy. He just seemed so absolutely decent, and he’d be tickled pink to meet Shakespeare, I think. I don’t know what he’d make of Shirley, but I can imagine he’d manage to charm a smile out of her.
As far as dinner parties go, I think it would be fairly tolerable; so long as everybody buggered off by 10pm, so I could go to bed and read.
Find and follow the Write Yorkshire writers on Instagram:
Cover image by azzy_roth via Pixabay