Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, October 7, 2011

Welcome to All Literary Book Bloggers-Oct 6 to Oct 9

Who Would You Invite to Dinner?

I am always glad to see the Literary Book Blog Hop-sometimes I admit I feel out of place in a world of YA books, vampire romances and ARC reviews.   It is good to meet other people with interests beyond these.

When I started my blog nearly two years ago, I planned to focus on books about people who lead at least partially reading centered lives.   This is still a core focus of my blog but in reality I post on a variety of topics including Japanese literature, post colonial Asia fiction, classics, and lately I have been very into short stories.  My  blog is the home of Irish Short Story Week II (set for March 2012).   I like to discover new to me authors and I am open to joint projects and events.

This week I am honored that the Literary Book Blog Hop features a question I submitted.

When I was in my early teens  or a bit younger I think,  I read a book called Van Loon's Lives by Hendrick Willlem Van Loon. It was written in 1942 (Van Loon was a Newberry Winner for another work). I was maybe ten or so when I first read it and I was totally fascinated. The story line is that Von Loon and his good friend found a magic way to invite three famous literary figures from different eras for a Sunday Dinner. The book gives mini bios of the guests, explains the food the would have wanted and shows their dinner conversations. If you could invite any three literary figures from different eras to a Sunday Dinner who would they be? Magic takes care of the language 

Van Loon's Lives is really a wonderful book and I think it helped start me on a life time reading adventure.   There is a really a lot to the book.    The narrator and his friend spend a lot of time researching topics of conversation, food etc.   Sometimes everything goes great and sometimes everything goes very wrong.   They even have unexpected guests such as the man who invented fire show up.   It is out of print but you can buy it online for under ten dollars.  Some of their guests are not purely literary figures such as Mozart and Napoleon.    At the time I read I had not even heard of most of the characters in the book but I was amazed the spectrum of guests.   This is also a book that I think most bookish adults will like also.    

Here are my three dinner guests.

1.   Samuel Johnson-from the UK in the late 18th century.   A great hero of the reading life and a lover of good conversation (OK and maybe a bit in love with holding forth!).   He was a truly wise man.

2.  Victor Hugo-France 19th century-we might as well match one giant ego with another-I am currently reading his Les Miserables and like all first time readers I am in sheer awe of the work.    

3.   Elizabeth Bowen-from Ireland -I would invite Ms Bowen just because I love her short stories so much and admire her as a person.   I think she is the one person who could keep this dinner party from turning into a battle of the unending monologues!    She was also a very experienced dinner party host.

What to serve?-Well it would be good hearty English and French food.   

Starting the conversation-Maybe we could invite Ms Bowen to update our other two guests on how the literary world sees them now and give them a quick run down on the history of the world since they passed away.   That should be enough to get the conversation going.    I predict both men would be utterly charmed by Ms Bowen and  Johnson would say he was glad to have met a great literary genius, even if he was French.  Hugo would in turn say that Johnson was a wiser man than Voltaire.     As they parted, Ms Bowen invited everyone back to her castle in Ireland for a two week holiday and tell Johnson that of course he could bring James Boswell to record it all.     Hugo will invite Johnson for a tour of the streets of post Napoleonic Paris (of course he will first have to explain to Johnson who Napoleon is and tell him about the bloody wars between their countries) including the sewers of Paris.     Johnson invites Hugo to join his weekly club meeting at the Old Chedder Cheese Pub.     

Mel u


Sandra said...

What a great book to have found when young. And a wonderful idea for a question for the meme. Very interesting. Well done.

Rebecca Chapman said...

Sounds like you will have some interesting conversation at your dinner party.

Reading Rambo said...

Following, for I enjoy the books you choose to read.

Victor Hugo, man. I wouldn't be able to sit at a table with him for fear I'd punch him in the nose in payment for me reading several particularly terrible chapters of Notre Dame de Paris.

Song said...

Interesting guests! Although, to me, Johnson sounds rather foreboding. I like the way you've added an outline for conversation. I didn't do that...makes me wonder what my guests would talk about!

Song said...

Oh!And I forgot to mention this...really enjoyed your question for this month's hop. Very creative!

wecallupon said...

I love your choices Mel ,Johnson be wonderful choice he was so full of questions it seemed about life words places ,all the best stu

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Great prompt. I'm still working on my guest list, though I easily came up with my location.

Love the clever way you segued from your dinner party into a two-week literary vacation.

Bellezza said...

What a fabulous question! (Plus, I love the fare you'd be serving!) I have to think about who to invite; I noticed you invited authors so I might expand to that as well.

Laura said...

I love how you've planned the whole conversation and future meet-ups and all- I'm glad you've found your lifelong literary friends! Also, the Old Cheddar Cheese Pub? Is that a real place, and if so how can I get there?!

Suzanne said...

That sounds like a wonderful party!

*ೃ༄ Jillian said...

Such a fun question!! I tried to find the book you site on Goodreads, and it isn't listed anywhjere. It sounds FASCINATING. I love the people like Napoleon and Mozart are featured. I really must find a copy.

I have not read any of the people you'd want to invite to your dinner. I need to remedy that. :-)

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

Great answers. I kept thinking about the question you left on my blog about serving these awesome writers Filipino food. Can you imagine giving Victor Hugo balot? LOL. The thought cracks me up, but the idea of serving these writers adobo is quite interesting...

Mel u said...

Sandra-thanks very much for your comment-I was lucky to have stumbled on Van Loon's Lives when so young

Beck (Page Turners)-yes it was a fun evening and thanks as always for your comments

Alice-I can relate to books being forced on us!

Risa-Samuel Johnson was a very imposing person for sure

Mel u said...

Wecallupon-Thanks-I am a life time reader of Johnson-sometimes more than others

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz-I am glad you enjoyed the question-it was fun for me to come up with my answer and I hated to cut the party short!

Bellezza-I am happy you appreciated the question

Mel u said...

Laura-I am so glad you enjoyed my answer-The Old Cheddar Cheese Pub was established in the 1600s and is still in the same location at 145 Fleet St, London-very traditional place that made feel connected to the long ago

Suzanne-thanks for the comment-my guess is it was a great conversation and dinner once the guests warmed up to each other

Jillian-I found Van Loon's Lives on Amazon for 7.50 or so plus postage (used)-I predict many older good sized American and UK libraries will have it in stock-it also has lots of beautiful old fashioned illustrations-I might read it again soon

Darlyn (Your Move Dickens)-on serving our guests Filipino Food-I see all my guests liking Beef Caldereta and seeing it as like Beef Stew-I am wondering if they would like crispy pata?-for breakfast I would serve Arcoz Caldo-

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Mel, I would have to invite Alberto Manguel, not only would we talk the night away about books, he could tell me about Borges Neil Astley, he has such a world of poetry knowledge, that I would learn so much & if I stick to just 3, then the last is Voltaire, he would be a great conversationalist and also very funny. A great idea thanks.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Nice question this week, and I like your answer, too!

Roof Beam Reader said...

Victor Hugo almost made my list too!

Great question this week - always fun to think about things like this.

Mel u said...

Parrish Lantern-interesting selections-I bet Roberto Bolano would be a great guest also

Adam-I am glad you enjoyed the question-it seems a lot of people really got into being creative with their answers

As The Crowe Flies and Reads-thanks so much for joining in

Ally said...

Here's my choice :)