This question arose from my comment yesterday that I’d like to dine with Shakespeare, and it’s a question that’s comes up occasionally in magazines and on the Internet. But I’d like to see what readers think, and of course that means that I have to give my own answers to prime the pump.
First, the question:
If you could have dinner with three people, but it would take the form of three dinners several days apart, with only ONE guest per dinner, who would you choose (and why would you choose them?)
I’ve avoided having three or more people at a single meal, for that would not only be confusing, but prevent you from having a good chat with any one of them. Another stipulation: you have to be able to speak the language or one of the languages of your subject. No translators allowed!
If you want to name up to five people (still only one per meal), be my guest, and pardon the pun.
My choices, which are not very creative (and I haven’t pondered them for long), but still . . . .
a. Charles Darwin. I’d simply want to see the man and hear his voice, but also ask him some questions (about that letter from Wallace, for instance) as well as filling him in on what’s new on evolution. (See my OUP “letter to Darwin” for an idea of what I’d like to tell him.)
b. William Shakespeare. This would be to clear up a number of questions that scholars have about the man, and before dining with him I’d have to do extensive preparations, like reading some of his famous plays that I’ve never read, and, most important, consulting with scholars to see what they’d like to know. This dinner would be more for the sake of literary history than my own personal enjoyment. I’d also be worried about being able to understand his Elizabethan accent!
c. George Orwell (Eric Blair). This was a tossup between Orwell and James Joyce, but in the end I decided that since I hadn’t read Finnegan’s Wake—and couldn’t understand it if I did—I might not have much to say to Joyce. Further, I imagine Orwell would be much more genial and less arrogant than Joyce, though that’s just a speculation. I’d like to have a nice English meal and knock back a few pints with Orwell, and get his take on the current political situation, not only in the world but also about Regressive Leftism.
Since I’ve thought about these answers only in the 15 minutes it took to write this post, I’m sure that I’m missing someone that I’d want to talk to (Isak Dinisen [Karen Blixen] is one woman I’d like to meet, and then there’s Samuel Johnson, Oscar Wilde and other great conversationalists).
So, as an oyster shucker in the Acme Oyster Bar in New Orleans once told me after presenting me with a dozen freshly-shucked bivalves, and was angling for his tip: “Here’s yours. Where’s mine?”