I would certainly take out Aubrey Beardsley because I am sure all eyes will be on him, looking as sullen and awkward as anything. I would also take Lord Byron because I am sure the night would end quite interestingly. And I'd totally share a bubbly with Oscar Wilde because I am sure he'll keep me in stitches.
Oh, and I'll bring any of the Vanderbilts to pick up the tab.
I would love to have a meal with Henry David Thoreau. I'd love to get his advice on everything in life. I also think it would be interesting to see what the man who coined the phrase "Simplify- Simplify!" would have to say about the way we live today. I doubt he'd have a cell phone, that's for sure. I'd like to get strategies from Thoreau about how to de-clutter my life in terms of both the physical and spiritual. Every time I re-read Walden my desire to speak with Thoreau grows. I think he's a truly fascinating and inspiring man.
At this moment in my teaching career, I'd think I'd like to eat dinner with Franz Kafka. I know that he might be a little morbid and pessimistic, but who else would listen with such interest to my tales of bureaucratic blunders in the NYC public school system?
I'd also like to speak a little Yiddish with him; Kafka was that rare German Jew who appreciated Yiddish, even though it is little more than pig German (pardon the unkosher metaphor).
I think Franz had more of a sense of humor than he's usually credited for, so we'd probably have a fine time. He also didn't think his work was worth publishing, which is what most people think of mine, so we have that in common too.
Great question. I would love to take Scott Fitzgerald to dinner. Since I would be picking up the tab, I would ask him to read my graduate thesis and tell me if I was accurate in my analysis of his work. I would also love to hear his side of the Fitzgerald/Hemingway friendship and the summer they ended up in Paris at the same time. Also, I would ask him if he really drove his car one night into a pond with the dignified Maxwell Perkins riding shotgun.
Historical figure? Teddy Roosevelt, without a doubt, especially after reading Mornings on Horseback, one of the finest historical biographies I've ever read. If he were willing to talk about it, I would ask him where he found the strength to endure the deaths of his mother and his wife on the same day. I would also be interested to know his opinion of the current relationship between the U.S. government and corporate America, although I have a pretty good guess.
If TR were unavailable (or even if he could make it), I would invite Harry Truman. I would ask Harry if he was telling the truth when he said he had never second-guessed any decision he had ever made, and then I would want to know how to do that! I would let him know that he is Missouri's favorite son, and always will be. I can imagine that Harry and TR would have a lot to talk about and would find much common ground, even though one was a Republican born to wealth and the other was a poor Missouri farm boy who grew up to be a Democrat. They would both have some war stories to share, literally and figuratively.
I'd echo the suggestion of Teddy Roosevelt. It would be fascinating to hear some of his reasoning for the policy and actions he engaged in his own lifetime. And--if it was possible--it would be equally fascinating to hear his take on our current world and consider what advice he might offer.
It would have to be Shakespeare for me I think - can you imagine how fascinating that would be? I would also like to take Henry James, Joseph Conrad and E. M. Forster out for dinner altogether. I can just imagine sitting back and listening to the conversation flow - it would be amazing!
Could I be so lucky to eat a meal with Jackie Onasis or Princess Di? I am suddenly interested in the lives of women who somehow, in the public eye, managed to balance family, husband (of prominence), and civil service, gracefully and fashionably in style.
It would be fun to hear the two of them complain for a change!
Benjamin Franklin has always been an intriguing historical figure. His wisdom about life, his acumen, his knowledge of so many things, his travels and adventures and, above all, his foresight would make for delightful dinner conversation.
I've always admired Edith Wharton for writing about the taboos in her era with regard to social mores and the role of women in society. It would be fascinating to talk with her over a long meal.
It would also be great to eat with Elie Weisel, Hitler, Shakespeare, and JFK. An eclectic group, to say the least, but wouldn't the conversation be stimulating!
So many choices and only one meal! I suppose I'd have to decide if I wanted this to be a "working dinner," to discuss writing and everything associated with it or if I wanted just to revel in the personality and thinking of a great author. In the end, I think I'd go for the latter and choose Samuel Clemmons (and his alter-ego Mark Twain, of course). I can't think of a more delightful dinner companion with whom to enjoy dry wit and humor combined with intellectual and political savvy. Yup, Twain's my man!
If I can choose from authors who are no longer living, Shakespeare. If they are living only, then Sherman Alexie. As for historical figures, I'd like to sit down over dinner and some drinks and talk with Teddy Roosevelt. Fascinated by that guy.
As far as authors go, I would like to dine with Harper Lee (although I know that she would refuse to do so). She's such an eccentric person, and I would love to see what her writing process was for creating such a well-rounded novel that will forever remain a classic.
Being a Civil War buff, I have always dreamed of picking the brain of Robert E. Lee. An evening with Lee and his wife (the granddaughter of Martha Washington) at their Virginia home (Arlington, now the site of the national cemetery) would be a fascinating experience.
I would take F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I would want him him to bring Zelda too. I think her story is as facinating as his. I am sure that it would be a wild night. On a serious note, I would want to ask about his writing process, especially for The Great Gatsby. As a literature teacher I usually assume author intentiallity of a text, but I would love to know if every detail was that carefully wrought, or if any of it was just a happy accident that he decided to kept in. I would like to know what he thinks of editors and critics too!
Definitely take J.K. Rowling. She has been my inspiration for a long time and she's such an excellent author, I can feel myself travelling through her worlds. She is creative and imaginative, Urusala Le Guin is just jealous that more people understand Harry Potter! Harry Potter rules over Earthsea!
It would have to be Jesus! How awesome that He died for me! And I have sooooooo many questions! I would need multiple dinners!
Josip Broz Tito.