Sunday, 10 August 2014

Guess who's coming to dinner? - Karen Bush


'The Load of Unicorn' by Cynthia Harnett
I've just finished re-reading 'The Load of Unicorn' by Cynthia Harnett. It's a great book, set at the time of Caxton and featuring a bidding battle between two publishers over the tales of Malory - so as well as being a good read, it's a book which will put a smile on the face of any writer. She effortlessly educates as well as entertains, and does some pretty fabulous illustrations as well, and I found myself thinking what a terrific dinner guest she'd make.

Naturally, that led me to think of what other literary dinner guests I'd like to invite - along with all my fellow AE friends and colleagues of course who would automatically receive a gilt edged invitation. The list started to grow so long that I realised that no table was going to be big enough, and it would have to be more along the lines of a stand-up buffet, which would rather spoil the initial idea of fascinating conversation shared over the course of a leisurely meal.


Jerome. No idea why
he's looking so grumpy ...
hopefully he would turn up for
dinner in a better mood
So I got ruthless. Working on the principle that I didn't want anyone here to feel obliged to invite me over for reciprocal beans on toast, I first eliminated all the AE authors from the list, then whittled away at the rest. It was tough, but ended up as a toss-up in the end between Jerome K Jerome whose books never fail to make me laugh even on the umpteenth reading, and TH White, author of my desert island book, The Once and Future King. White won in the end by a whisker: so much knowledge - and a fellow dog lover of course. (Yes, I know Jerome wrote about the fictional Montmorency, and owned a real fox terrier or two himself - but read White's accounts of Brownie and you'll understand how he managed to inch ahead)

Interviews with Remarkable Authors - interview with White from the BBC archives - to watch click HERE

Louis Rhead's bold Robin
shooting in Sherwood with Sir Guy
          Then I started to think of which fictional character I might like to meet. This was even more difficult, as some of my favourites aren't necessarily people you might want to share a meal with. I mean, you'd definitely find it hard to relax with Elric's bloodthirsty sword humming hungrily away at his side ... In the end I was torn between Falco (plus Helena, of course), King Arthur and Havelock Vetinari (another dog lover). Or possibly Lady Sybil and Sam Vimes.  Or Robin Hood. Oh hell. Here we go again ... pass me the red pen.


So who would you invite (living, dead or fictional) to dinner?


28 comments:

Mari Biella said...

I think I’d choose Oscar Wilde as my author guest, in the hope that I’d get to hear some of his witty repartees. It’s much harder to choose a fictional character, simply because, as you say, many of my favourite fictional characters aren’t actually the kind of people you’d want over for dinner. I can’t imagine that Heathcliff would make a very good table companion, for example...

madwippitt said...

Cor yes, Oscar Wilde! Good choice!

catdownunder said...

Mmm Cynthia Harnett! Joan Aiken, Diana Wynne Jones, Tolkien, TS Eliot, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall-Smith, Elfrida Vipont, Elizabeth Goudge, John Verney, Margot Benary, Ivan Southall, Elinor Lyon... oh dear and that is without even thinking about it!

JO said...

Vikram Seth and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - then I'd simply sit back and listen.

madwippitt said...

Some great choices! And you see what I mean about the difficulty of narrowing things down, catdownunder? :-)

Susan Price said...

I think I'd join you, Karen, in inviting half the cast of the Disc World. Maybe we could hold a join do?
Vimes and Lady Sybil for certain - though would they be happy at the same table with Vetinari? I think he'd make everyone a bit uncomfortable. I'd quite like to invite Lady Margotta of Uberwald, though - and it might cause a diplomatic incident if she was invited and Vetinari left out.

But Captain Carrot and Angua - and Granny and Nanny, if they'd accept. And Magrat, of course - but then we'd have to ask the King of Lancre too. Unless we invited her from the book before she marries the King. - This gets complicated.

I think Flora Poste would be a wonderful guest too. She'd sort everyone out, and solve any problems.

There's lots of fictional guests I'd barricade the doors against, though. Tess Durberville? - Love her book, but couldn't stand her moping around the place.

Debbie Bennett said...

Well I've *had* dinner with Neil Gaiman - Clive Barker at the next table ....

Bill Kirton said...

I'd be predictable and ask the funny ones - Terry Pratchett, Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen. But I've already written on my own blog about spending an evening with Emma Bovary - just the two of us (sigh).

Jan Needle said...

don't trust her, bill. she's a minx. anyway, i'd much rather have m'selle de maupin.

Bill Kirton said...

Really, Jan? Then a foursome at the Jules Verne or, for greater discretion, l'Abeille might be interesting.

Jan Needle said...

aye, but as you hondootedly know, one of france's great tug companies names all its vessels Abeille (un, deux, trois, etc) so we might find ourselves pulled in different directions. it's just a thought, but worth sleeping over. (see, we're into bad german/dutch jeux de mots as well now. where will it all end?)

Lee said...

On my list are all the people I'd love to poison with my cooking.

madwippitt said...

Please don't Lee. If you're really that abysmal in the kitchen, then hang the expense: invite people you would like to spend the evening chatting with and get in outside caterers. Or organise fish and chips from the local takeaway.
Some interesting choices: I feel a buffet coming on again!

Jan Needle said...

do they have fish n ship shops in germany, lee? currywurst might do the trick, tho!

Jan Needle said...

that's fish n chip, naturlich...

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Barbara Pym would be my first choice. China Mieville, but I think he'd be scary. I've had dinner with Ian Rankin - and a lot of other people - aboard the Discovery in Dundee. (My claim to fame!) Heathcliff would be a bit of a nightmare, wouldn't he? You'd have to hide your dogs as well in case he felt the urge to hang one up by its lead. Robert Burns would be good, unless he was having one of his periodic bouts of drinking too much ... so many choices! George and Weedon Grossmith (Diary of a Nobody) would be fun.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I forgot my favourite Dickens character - Nicolas Nickleby. He'd probably have a punch-up with Heathcliff.

madwippitt said...

I feel a whole new thread coming on ... guests to invite who would have an interesting contretemps with each other ... fisticuffs? :-D

Lee said...

Madwippit, if I'm not going to be allowed to poison anyone - unless it's with my poison pen (groan...)- then fisticuffs it'll be.

Jan, there are no fish n chip shops that I know of, but I'll ask my kids. In Berlin especially, you're likely to find all manner of oddities, one of my favourites being a liquorice shop. The first time I went in, I must have bought one of everything. You can even get a really decent American-style cheeseburger in the city (run by Brits, BTW).

Catherine Czerkawska said...

A liquorice shop sounds wonderful. This makes me wonder - we have an advert on the television here which features a 'caramel shop' and although it looks delicious, every time it comes on, my husband says, 'well have YOU ever seen a caramel shop?' and I haven't. Now I'm wondering if Berlin might have caramel shops as well! Madwippitt a contretemps thread would be fun.

Lydia Bennet said...

mmm liquorice... well oscar wilde would be a deffo invitee, I've been a huge fan for as long as I can recall - he'd be so entertaining - and Socrates who was not only very wise and good but could drink anyone under the table all night and still be full of great stories. Stephen Maturin for wild life swapping stories and all sorts of biomedical stuff as well as adventures on the high seas. And I want Amy Johnson as she's my heroine. Barbara Pym is my fave novelist but perhaps rather quiet in the dinner party situation - perhaps Wilmet Forsythe or Jessie Morrow instead? (many of her women would be too quiet in that glare of attention and competition also!) and perhaps Olga Bracely from EF Benson's books - Lucia would be too domineering!

madwippitt said...

Lee, I am so sad for you. How tragic if there is not a single writer or fictional character that you like.

Lee said...

Madwippett, liquorice is a great antidote for sadness. Try some!

(It even dries crocodile tears.)

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Olga would be great! As would Georgie. How could I forget them? Olga and Georgie together. (But not, I think, Lucia.) Yes, Barbara might be quiet but if it was a small dinner party and she was sitting next to you, I can imagine she'd be very funny. We could have William Brown under the table and pass him sausage rolls.

madwippitt said...

Montmorency would no doubt fight him for them ...

Reb MacRath said...

Absolutely Oscar--to listen to and spar with.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

And Jumble would fight Montmorency! This is getting out of hand ...

madwippitt said...

It will all be fine just so long as Old Possum's cats don't turn up. Or Blott! :-)