My Soirée With Napoleon, Madame Curie & Other Luminaries

So I was leafing through the New York Times Book Review the other day when I came across this piece about The Dinner Party Writers Dream Of.

This year, our By the Book series of author interviews turned 10 — the feature made its debut in the April 15, 2012, issue, with David Sedaris in the hot seat — so to celebrate, we thought we would throw an end-of-year party. A dinner party, to be precise, since one of our recurring questions almost from the start has been: “You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?”

By design, the answers favor a certain kind of writer (witty, gregarious, charming, engaged) and, also by design, they tend to reveal a fair amount about the hosts: not only their reading habits but their social lives. “I can’t imagine myself hosting a literary dinner party,” Anne Tyler said in 2015. “What on earth would a bunch of writers talk about? I’d rather just curl up with a sandwich and read some favorite book over again on my own.”

We hear you, Anne. Still, plenty of participants have ventured to imagine what a bunch of writers might talk about, and have assembled their dream guest lists for us. Here are the 20 writers invited most often over the years, along with a sampling of quotes explaining their picks. Bon appétit.

Here are the dining companions most in demand among the glitterati over the past decade.

Seriously? Shakespeare, Baldwin, Twain, Morrison, Austen? Dickens? Tolstoy?  Proust? Outside of Octavia Butler and Sappho, pretty unimaginative dinner parties, all due respect.

Forty years ago I was creative director at a small Boston ad agency among whose clients was a real estate developer looking to convert the Brook House – a 700-unit gated community on the Boston/Brookline border – from apartments to condominiums.

The developer told me, “Make something that everyone will be talking about.”

So I decided to host a Soirée for the Ages that would appear as an ad campaign in the real estate pages of the Boston Sunday Globe.

RSVPs came in the form of these teaser ads the first week.

The following Sunday, this full-page ad ran in the Globe.

Here’s a slightly more readable version, for those of you keeping score at home.

I’ve never claimed that my little get-together sold a single condo at the Brook House, but a whole bunch of people did talk about it. Maybe because it wasn’t just a bunch of the usual fantasy dinner-party suspects.

Eat your hearts out, Times glitterati.

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2 Responses to My Soirée With Napoleon, Madame Curie & Other Luminaries

  1. Doug Miller says:

    Wonderful! I agree yours are much better. Now I have to click on your link to remind myself what Brook House is/was. I have been a mere visitor to Boston and Brookline over the years. Maybe it is that thing near Children’s Hospital? Oh, I see. Pond Avenue. I thought that was in JP. On a related topic: have you ever written about the Children’s Garden controversy? For some reason I was reading up on that again a few months ago. I like the connection between the original donor and Sylvia Plath.

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