Doug Hamlin

137 days ago

Someone asked me a similar question recently, but Klosterman is able to put into words what was just a bunch of flustered mouth noises from me.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

I have a lot of issues with this question. I realize the purpose of the hypothetical is to reflect some deeper insight into the subject’s aesthetic sensibility, but I can’t help but take it literally. First of all, I have several friends who have coincidentally written books, and some of these friends I haven’t seen in years. I would obviously prefer having dinner with three old friends as opposed to three famous strangers, regardless of how talented they were as writers. Over the past 20 years, I’ve often found myself in professional situations where I’ve had to have dinner with arbitrary collections of random authors, many of whom were nice and a few of whom are brilliant. Yet the experience itself is almost always uncomfortable. It seems like the first half of dinner involves everybody trying too hard to be overly complimentary to everyone else at the table, and then the second half of dinner is just people complaining about how they don’t sell enough books or make enough money. It never feels like a real conversation unless everyone at the table is drunk. Moreover, the fact that this proposed scenario involves the possibility of selecting guests who are “dead or alive” really forces my hand. It seems insane to pick any living person if dead people are eligible. There is no author alive who’s a fraction as compelling as any dead garbageman, and there’s no theoretical discussion about the craft of writing that would be half as interesting as asking “What was it like to die?” to someone who could respond authoritatively to that query. The only problem is that dead people might not understand what was going on, why they were suddenly alive, or why they were being forced to make conversation with some bozo at a weird dinner party. They might just sit there and scream for two hours. And even if they kept it together, I’m sure they’d be highly distracted. If I invite Edgar Allan Poe to dinner, it seems possible he’d spend the whole time expressing amazement over the restaurant’s air conditioning.

Chuck Klosterman Likes Writers Who Aren’t Self-Absorbed Sociopaths

nytimes.com