I suppose the honest answer to this week’s Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish would be for me to submit a blank page. Unfortunately, being British, I won’t be having a Thanksgiving dinner and so have nothing to which I could invite anyone, let alone cool authors.
I've always assumed that Thanksgiving was one of those American things, something culturally specific, like American Football (played using the hands – go figure), and thus to be appreciated by me as an observer rather than as a participant. What I didn’t realise though was that it isn’t just Americans who celebrate it. Oh no! I knew that Canadians do, albeit earlier in the month but I didn’t know that Liberians (as opposed to librarians) do Thanksgiving, as do the inhabitants of Leiden in the Netherlands, apparently to celebrate the raising of the Siege of Leiden in 1574 (God, Wikipedia is good.). And, of course, we mustn’t forget the good citizens of
Norfolk Island, who will be sitting down to whatever feast they have at Thanksgiving on 30th November this year.
So lots of different people have their own versions of Thanksgiving. But not us Brits. The closest we get is Harvest Festival, which used to be quite big when I was at primary school but about which I don’t hear much these days. I do seem to remember it as a day when we all had to collect food to give to the less fortunate. I’m not sure what the local poor made of the random collection of tinned beans, potatoes and mushy peas that my classmates and I would hand over, supplemented by some more exciting (or dangerous, depending on your views on health and safety) past their sell-by-date items. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to invite any of my favourite authors to eat our old Harvest Festival comestibles for fear of killing them or, at the very least, giving them indigestion.
But it would be unfair of me to leave you with a blank page to contemplate, as you have been so kind as to come over for a visit so I will assume that my parents had followed through with their plan to leave Merrie Olde England in the early ‘70s and, instead of landing in Canada as intended, had made landfall south of the 49th parallel, thereby ensuring that I ended up with a US passport. With whom shall I share my turkey and pumpkin pie then?
I’m going to give myself a bit of flexibility. As I’ve adopted a fantasy nationality and will be sitting at an imaginary table, with unreal food, I’m going to allow myself to invite both the quick and the dead and to provide each of my guests and me with a universal simultaneous translator, to ensure that we can all enjoy ourselves. So, who has made the cut for my fantasy Thanksgiving dinner?
1. Dorothy Parker. As a founder member of the Algonquin Round Table and a famous wit, I think Dorothy would be an entertaining dinner guest, especially as she was fond of a drink or three. Anyone who can write this verse is certainly value for a free meal:
“Love is a glorious medley of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of
2. Oscar Wilde. Decadent, brilliant, witty and with a hell of a back story, what dinner table wouldn’t be enlivened by Oscar?
3. Colette. Despite being responsible for the execrable Le Blé en Herbe, which I was required to read for my French A-level, she gets an invite to my turkey supper for probably having a fund of stories about her life of scandalous excess, yet still managing to become the first French woman to be awarded a state funeral.
4. Evelyn Waugh. If you’ve ever read his diaries or letters, you’ll know that, as well as being one the great 20th Century British satirists, he was a hilariously malicious gossip. Assuming he was on good form, he would be an asset to any gossipy dinner party.
5. Jan Morris. To my mind, she is one of the very best travel writers of the modern age. In particular, her book on
manages to be an absolutely beautiful read whilst still painting a true picture of the city. Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza is co-hosting Venice in February and I suggest that, if you haven’t already read this, you sign up for the challenge, if only as an excuse to read it. Jan gets an invite so she can enthral us with tales of the faraway. Venice
6. Hunter S Thompson. So far, my table is looking witty, interesting but relatively civilised. Every self-respecting dinner party should have at least one token drug-bingeing, drunken lunatic to liven up proceedings and everyone’s favourite gonzo journalist fits that bill nicely. I just hope he leaves his gun at home.
7. Mary Shelley. Having written Frankenstein after a house party with Percy Shelley, Byron and Polidori, I wonder what she could come up with after an evening with this lot. And I bet she’d have some stories to tell.
8. Stephen Fry. Now officially a British National Treasure, he is highly amusing, polymathic and even seems to be a nice chap so he gets an invite. He also once played Oscar Wilde in a film so it would be fun to see their conversation.
9. Rebecca West. As a journalist and author, I think her reputation has faded a little unfairly in recent years and certainly since Time magazine called her "indisputably the world's number one woman writer" in 1947. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, her combined travel and history work about
in the 1930s was described in the New York Times as “not only the magnification and intensification of the travel book form, but, one may say, its apotheosis." I also love her memoir of the Nuremberg War Trials, a topic of endless interest to me and so I would love to talk to her about her coverage of the trials over the Thanksgiving repast. Yugoslavia
10. Ernest Hemingway. My favourite literary wild man, I’d love to see him and Hunter Thompson going head to head over dinner……..even if there’d be a hell of a mess to clear up afterwards.