One Thousand Words and A Table For Eight

I think the conversation starter “Who would you invite to a dinner party, dead or alive?” is so much more interesting than “who would you want to be stranded on an island with,” don’t you?

It’s also doesn’t end in a proposition.

The deserted island question forces you to be practical. You have to pick someone strong or a survivalist or at least someone wouldn’t want to kill in the first forty eight hours because you’re going to be stuck in their company for the rest of your life.

Whereas the dinner party question creates less pressure. You only have to spend a couple of hours in conversation with the people. Your survival doesn’t depend on their skills.

I’ve never spent a great deal of time pondering either question. I figure the likelihood of a shipwreck or star-filled meal are equally as unlikely to come true so why waste my time.

But as I got ready to write tonight I realized that, after two board meetings in the past two days and another tomorrow, I have very little to say.

And one thing I’ve learned in 363 days is that list-style posts are easier to write than one thousand coherent words on a single topic.

So, here’s my dream dinner party.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

President Clinton may not have been our best president, or our most moral, but his ability to overcome adversity is fascinating.

The PBS special about him I watched recently called him the “comeback kid” and it’s a very apt title. You just can’t ever count him out.

He also seems to be type of person who focuses intently on his conversation partner, like s/he is the only person in the room. That kind of intensity is attractive in a dinner party guest.

In addition to his personal traits that make me want to talk to him, he has amazing experiences to share as a past President.

Meetings with world leaders, political power struggles, white house secrets. He’d never run out of stories to tell.

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov

I honestly don’t know much about Nabokov as a person. Judging by his picture he was a bit of a grump. But, like Bill Clinton, I think he must have interesting experiences to talk about, as an immigrant, writer, teacher.

And he was also entomologist (specializing in moths) and chess expert. How could he not be intriguing?

I’d love to spend a dinner listening to how he crafted Lolita or getting writing advice.

I’ve also heard that Nabokov was a synesthete, he associated colors with numbers. I know very little about the syndrome (Is it even a syndrome?) but I bet Nabokov could tell me all about it over the salad course.

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel

I have been enamored with Studs Terkel ever since I read Working before directing a production of the musical.

Studs has talked to so many people that I’m sure he’d be a wonderful contributor to any conversation, but I think he’d be an even better facilitator.

The man made his living listening to people and getting them to talk. If he can get a factory worker, brick layer and housewife to talk about what they do, he would be able to draw miraculous stories from other famous authors and celebrities.

My only concern about inviting Studs is that everyone else would talk over him and we wouldn’t get his insights.

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman

I’m ashamed that Emma Goldman is the only woman on my list. I tried to think of a few others, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Stockard Channing, but the men just seemed more interesting.

What appeals to me about Emma Goldman is more her passion than her cause. She was willing to risk everything, including her life, in order to speak her mind and advance her movement.

And every good dinner party needs an anarchist, right?

Christopher Guest

Christopher Guest

This actor/director’s gift is a unique way of looking at the world. All of his mockumentaries examine the intricacies of a subsection of society.

Anyone who sees the show dog people, community theater actors and aging folk singers as film topics has got to have something good to say.

I’m also taken with the idea that he works with a regular group of actors when making his films, like an old fashioned traveling band of minstrels.

It says something about a director that actors would stick with him through so many movies. They obviously trust him and his artistry.

That’s how I define “leadership” and I’d enjoy talking to Christopher Guest about how he inspires such loyalty.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Not only do I like his books despite the fact that they are often violent, bleak and feature the death of animals, but Ernest Hemingway was a part of one of the most exciting time periods for literature and the arts.

Maybe I’m just saying this because I loved the movie Midnight in Paris and Corey Stoll’s portrayal of the writer made me develop a little crush on Hemingway, but I know I would be totally star struck to hear him talk about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Picasso and Dali.

The sheer creativity of that time must have been overwhelming and since I’ll never get to live it, listening to Hemingway describe it would be the next best things.

Plus, he was a cat lover.

John McEnroe

John McEnroe

Ok, so Johnny Mac probably seems like a strange choice in this list of authors, artists and activists. But I love to talk tennis, and if John McEnroe has one thing, it’s opinions on the sport.

Just to be clear, I’m talking about the current John McEnroe, not the prime of his career John McEnroe. That guy scares me with all his yelling and racquet throwing.

But I think listening to commentator John, the one who has mellowed just a little but still has plenty to say, would be a lot of fun.

So that’s my dinner party invitation list. What do you think? Would you like a seat at this table?

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