by | Mar 17, 2022 | Karna Small Bodman, The Writer's Life | 4 comments

By Karna Small Bodman

In The New York Times Sunday Book Review section, you’ll see a prominent author answering certain questions such as: “You are hosting a Literary Dinner Party, which authors (living or dead) would you invite and why?” What an interesting challenge. Considering the heartless Russian invasion of Ukraine and watching how the people are bravely fighting back, inspired by the leadership of their President, Volodymyr Zelenekyy, my first choice as a guest at the dinner would be this incredible man — praying that he survives to lead Ukraine as a free country. I would ask this former script writer, producer and stage performer how he gathered the courage to stage such a fierce fight, an explanation that would indeed be fascinating to read.

My next invitation would go to Agatha Christie (1890-1976), the bestselling fiction writer of all time, her novels having sold over two billion copies, although it is amazing to learn that she was initially an unsuccessful writer with six consecutive rejections. It all changed in 1920 when The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring Detective Hercule Poirot was published. That character was the hero in close to 800 of her novels and short stories which later became popular films.

Meanwhile, she was married six years before to Archibald Christie. And it became known in the household that they had problems, including gossip about his having an affair. Then in 1926 she disappeared for 11 days. Police found her car abandoned with her fur coat inside – sparking a huge investigation and media frenzy including speculation that her husband may have killed her.  This real-life mystery of what happened inspired several films and novels, including one I thoroughly enjoyed reading, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, by Marie Benedict. At my dinner party I would ask Christie the question, “Once and for all, can you please tell us where you were and why you disappeared?

To lighten the mood at the table, I would invite Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), raised along the Mississippi River but later headed west and took the pen name Mark Twain (evidently inspired by the way you “mark” the depth of a boat with a piece of “twain” dropped in the water) We all know of his famous novels about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. But another novel also gained high praise, The Prince and the Pauper where one young boy is a child of the London slums, while the other is heir to the throne of England, and a chance encounter leads to an exchange of roles. Besides highlighting social hypocrisy and injustice, Twain injected irresistible comedy, and this is where I’d like to focus my dinner question: How did you come up with so many now-famous humorous quotes such as, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been?”    

Finally, I would invite a contemporary (and controversial) favorite author, Jeffrey Archer, now published in 97 countries in over 33 languages. I say “controversial” because he was a member of the British Parliament, but went through a scandal that landed him in prison for a short while and he almost went bankrupt.  In an amazing turn-around, he was made a Member of the House of Lords and earned a fortune with his successful novels – the latest (out just a few months ago) is Over My Dead Body . I would ask Archer to tell us what it was like serving in a British prison vs. his life as a peer and famous author. Here is his photo taken when he accepted an award from an Irish organization. . .

. . . which leads me – and other members of our family – to wish all of you a very Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

If you were organizing a Literary dinner party, which authors would YOU invite – and why?  Thanks for joining us on Rogue Women Writers.

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  1. Tracy Clark

    Oh, this is so wonderful. The writers we could talk to boggles the mind. One of my must-haves would have to be Dorothy Parker. She was once quoted as saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then come here and sit by me.” Oh, the stories she would tell.

    • Karna Small Bodman

      Thanks, Tracy – Dorothy Parker would indeed be a great guest to invite. I recall another of her funny quotes – something to the effect, “This room is so small, there’s only space to lay my hat or a close friend.”

  2. Lisa Black

    Oh my gosh, what heaven—I’d want P.D. James, Alastair MacLean, and Fredric Dannay and Manfred Lee (who wrote Ellery Queen). I don’t know what we’d talk about, I’d just sit and listen.

  3. Chris Goff

    Great question, Karna. Helen MacInnes would top my list. M. M. Kaye. P.D. James. Interesting that they are all British writers. Lisa Gardner. The late Tom Clancy. Robert Ludlum. And the list continues to grow!