Dinner with the Literati


None of the authors arriving for the Literati Party would begin with “It was a dark and stormy night,” but in fact it was such when the big names of literature and myth began to arrive. Ulysses, Moses and Aaron showed up in Levis, having been lost for 40 years. [Men never would ask directions!] Stephen King had a lemonade stand out front, shining shoes with his pet dog Semetary. Electra couldn’t come ’til morning, and Hercule Poirot got disoriented on the expressway—it was murder, he said. They couldn’t get Darwin out of the zoo, as he chased his beagle through the aisles. Archibald MacLeish knocked at the door, but Nobodaddy answered.

Peter Pan flew in, alas looking like a shadow of his former self. Dashiell Hammett was likewise too thin for a man and his date, Lillian Hellman, was looking a little foxy. Emily Dickinson, always dashing off a line of poetry, arrived by taxi, which had kindly stopped for her. Dr Jekyll and his alter-ego Mr Hyde appeared out of the dark night, accompanied by the dissipated Sidney Carton, mumbling about doing something far far better and going to a better rest than he had ever known. Plato was late as always, full of apologies. Orwell nervously watched for his big brother.

Lizzie Borden made excuses for her parents, who both had splitting headaches. Ahab fought with Long John Silver over the handicapped parking. Poe wore a mask of the red death for the after-party. Maya Angelou sang to the caged birds. e.e. cummings refused to capitalize on his fame, while James Baldwin insisted he wanted to sit by the fire next time. Cain wasn’t able to please his father and Faulkner asked for soldier’s pay. Milton wanted the lights turned up. He and Dostoevsky gambled the night away, but Milton kept losing his pair o’ dice. Medusa got mad because she could only roll snake eyes. Although Jake Barnes and Lord Chatterley were invited, neither could come. The white rabbit was always late and Alice showed up in the queen’s coach, fresh from a stay in Wonderland Rehab. Asked how she was doing, Alice smiled, “I’m having my ups and downs.”

Sherlock Holmes was a studyin’ Scarlett O’Hara as Anne Tyler gave breathing lessons to the three pigs. Kate Chopin wanted to awaken Rip Van Winkle as Stephen Crane cried about a girl of the streets. Dreiser thought it all an American tragedy. “What a waste!” Eliot opined. Truman Capote was hearing other voices in other rooms, and Fitzgerald declared it the best part of this side of paradise. Hemingway kept looking for a moveable feast (with portable food). Charlotte Perkins Gilford went crazy over the yellow wallpaper and Steinbeck insisted on having his tortillas flat. Paul Theroux swatted the mosquitoes, as Updike attempted to be the centaur of attention. Virginia Woolf sent Jacob to his room, Anderson brought the wine, and Faulkner brought a rose for Emily. But Gertrude Stein stole the tender buttons and Ursula le Guin just walked away. Conrad had a secret to share, and Whitman wanted the lilacs in the dooryard. Dickey over-tipped the delivery boy.


As the millionth meeting of Dysfunctional Families Anonymous (mostly) came to order, seating arrangements became a source of contention. Lolita wanted to sit at the grownups table, and Medea had to be seated as far from the kiddy table as possible. Captain Hook was also denied seating at the children’s table, crying crocodile tears as the clock ticked him off. Drinking from the Cask of Amontillado, Poe ushered Madeline and Roderick to a love seat. Wandering through the labyrinthine dining hall, Medusa became frightfully ugly about waiting for a table and then got totally stoned at the bar, as did Mary Magdalene. The Compsons made a lot of sound and fury over the light in August  room, and Norman Bates went psycho trying to find his mother. Tiresias couldn’t decide whether to use the ladies’ or men’s room, seeing no future in either choice.


Poe was ushered to the bar along with Faulkner, for whom the bar was a sanctuary. TS Eliot was always wasted as Prufrock insisted there would be time for a hundred visions and revisions. Joseph groused about service at the inn and later refused any more leftovers. They couldn’t get Lady Macbeth and Pontius Pilate out of the washrooms, but they did offer advice on stubborn stains. Gulliver got tossed out of the pick-up basketball game for traveling, and both Cyclops and Oedipus were too blind drunk to keep an eye on the children. Ulysses and his men made pigs of themselves. As ordering began, Hamlet couldn’t make up his mind–”To pea or not split pea?” Ahab chose leg of lamb, and Long John Silver made off with a drumstick. Lear insisted on placing one order to be shared by his three daughters, but Cordelia went off with some Frenchman. Oedipus wanted what his father was having. The three weird sisters were in charge of the soup, but it kept bubbling over. Jay Gatsby wanted to make his own meal as he spread daisies all over the room. Catherine enjoyed her Heath bar, Humbert Humbert munched on a Baby Ruth, while Brett roamed the hall, looking for more nuts. While Joan of Arc smoked, Tolkien denied any interest in such a bad Hobbit.

Iago complained to Othello that the other guys were eating off his plate when he went to the john, and Desdemona was dying for a heaping dish of smothered steak. Donne complained his meal was lousy. Ahab got a bit nervous when Tom Thumb suggested he wanted to “finger the ivories.” Service was slow yet everyone pretended to believe that “the iceman cometh.” Gunga Din brought water to everyone, yet Vonnegut insisted he could make a better man out of a banana—which really set off the hairy ape. Bartleby preferred not to order, sitting in a corner quietly. Dracula refused the wine, hated the steak with roasted garlic and settled for sushi and blood pudding.

Ophelia asked if she had time for a quick dip, and Mary mocked Emily Dickinson for wearing white after labor day. Emily in turn moaned about the buzzing flies. Kafka complained about a huge insect in his soup. “Oh, what a trial,” he said, as he castled the White Knight. The Mad Hatter tipped the waiter, as Romeo and Juliet carried on about being poisoned by the bad food. Shylock was a real glutton, but Norman Bates ate like a bird. Nobody could abide Portnoy, who complained about everything. Goldilocks was barred from the kitchen because everything she cooked was either too hot or too cold, too large or too small, etc. Hemingway wanted beer-battered fish, but the catch of the day that Yossarian ordered was temporarily out of stock.

Brett Ashley preferred Bitch Stroganoff, while Blanche Dubois just wanted some Polish sausage. Huck Finn ordered the Tom turkey, but only the dark meat. Adam and Eve thought they’d try the baby back ribs and apple pie. Maggie the Cat asked for Tin Roof ice cream for dessert. Temple Drake steered clear of the fried corn dogs and Hemingway picked at his bell pepper rolls. Flannery O’Connor opted for pasta, saying “a good manicotti is hard to find.”


“Jude, you’re too obscure! You’ll never be accepted into the grad program.”

“Edgar, your stories are the pits!”

Daniel Defoe, “Thank God it’s Friday.”

“Puck, you fairy.”

“Don’t be a stranger, Camus.”

“Oh, Ernest, you are so full of bull.”

“Go rake some leaves, Walt.”

Chicken Little, “I’m only here to get laid, even if the sky is falling.”

“It’s always all about you, isn’t it, Narcissus?”

John the Baptist, “Heads will roll if I don’t get my salami!”

“Aladdin, you shouldn’t keep your feelings bottled up.”

Helen to Menelaus, “Did you bring your Trojans? If not, we’ll always have Paris.”

Fitzgerald, “The rich dessert is different.”

Hemingway, “Yes, they have more sugar.”

……….to be continued

©1998 (Rev. 2015) Linda L Labin, PhD


4 thoughts on “Dinner with the Literati

  1. Enough already! Some genuine moments when I Roared and snortled out loud along with a couple of heartfelt groans. (Milton’s pair o’ dice, Oh please!). Great fun – (very glad I did American Studies at College – it has finally paid off). Only one query “Anderson brought the wine” hmmm?

    Too many favourites here, but I especially loved the John the Baptist quote. reminds me of the classic one-liner – “No Salome dear, not in the fridge”.

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      • Thank you, I had not heard of either Sherwood Anderson or his novel, which I since discover was listed as one of the 100 best English language novels in the 20th century. But that list was compiled in 1998 – which seems a lifetime away! I’ve always maintained my childhood love of puns – the groanier the better.

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