At the Opium Live launch Todd Zuniga asked Anya Ulinich what dead writers she'd have over for dinner. She picked Nabokov and Grace Paley. Two great choices if you asked me and they could counterpoint for the other.
My mom always liked to play this game at gatherings. She didn't frame the question what writers she'd ask over to dine, but what people? Coco Chanel, the Mahatma, Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill. Okay, so sometimes a literary luminary popped onto the list. My mom has always been very fond of Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle.
Some people aren't into these games. Not all of my relatives and certainly not all of her friends. But, the ones that are game can give delightful results. I remember once being over at friends of ours. The new boyfriend, Michael, of my mom's friend's sister was a real card. He mentioned people I had never heard of. I was only eight at the time. Michael was convinced he bore an uncanny resemblance to George Plimpton. He didn't. But, he knew a lot about him I would later find to be true. Michael also had a particular interest in Gore Vidal and André Gide. He also had a penchant for collecting trilobites which I was absolutely smitten with. I was still in my paleontological phase. He draw a pretty nifty sketch of a Devonian-aged fish and I gave him a thumb's up.
Why do I bring this up? I really never saw the guy again. My mom's fiend's sister dated regularly and had moved onto somebody else, but I kept asking about Michael. He'd piqued my curiosity. I don't know if he is alive or dead, but he is the kind of guest I would love to have at a dinner party.
And since I'm on the topic of curating dinners for lively corpses I'd be hard-pressed to find better company than Oscar Wilde, Samuel Johnson, and Benjamin Franklin. I really think I'd hit it off with Thomas Jefferson Too. I never really did get over my paleontological phase.