I had a great time attending the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend, especially getting the chance to see Joyce Carol Oates speak on Friday. Before her address, I got into a discussion with a friend about authors we’ve met or would like to meet. My friend, a literary type, rattled off an impressive list of living authors. Then, the conversation turned to deceased authors. He said he’d like to meet David Foster Wallace. My mind drifted immediately to Jane Austen because Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books. But I hesitated to pick her because I think it would be a weird encounter given the time period discrepancy. And call me a lush, but I want to meet a literary icon I can buy a drink at a bar.
Enter Dorothy Parker. I’m not sure when I first came upon her work, but my fondness for her poem “The Flaw in Paganism” inspired me to buy a collection of her poetry at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco about a year ago. Now, the book occupies a distinguished space on my bathroom shelf. One thing I love about her poetry is how she plays to the stereotypes of romantic love and then undermines them (e.g. “Love Song“). I also like her darker poems that deal with suicide and the general absurdity of life (e.g. “Resumé” and “Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom“). Like many legends who find fame young, she faced many challenges, including being blacklisted by Hollywood movie bosses during the McCarthy era. Another tidbit I found really interesting in the Wikipedia article about her was that she left her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr.
In my fantasy, we’d meet at a pre-Prohibition era bar in New York City. We’d drink cocktails, like the Aviation shown above, and talk about love affairs. I’d ask her how to be bold and stand up for what I believe.
What deceased literary icon would you like to meet? What would you ask them?