Guess who’s coming to dinner – a writing prompt

Apparently I inspired Meredith’s latest writing prompt, so I thought I might actually have a go at this one, though this will perhaps end up looking more like a list. The prompt was to write about who you would ask for dinner, what you would serve, and where.

So, as I was saying, I would invite George Eliot. To me her observations of the human psyche and of the inner workings of ordinary souls are unsurpassed in literature. And her immense intelligence and learning for a woman of her time is a wonder. I also find her personal story quite fascinating, though sad, and I would like to know more of it.

Then I would invite Christina Rossetti, that intensely burning individual of wild imagination, whose Christ-ward convictions led her to self-denials that broke her heart. Her poetry has become very personal to me. I suspect it could take more than one evening to penetrate this private character, as well as that of George Eliot, but we would persist. I am intrigued by families of such collective creative genius as the Rossettis and the Brontes, and what it would have been like growing up in their households.

I would also invite Marilynne Robinson, whose novels are some of the most exquisite and grace-filled stories I have ever read. Both as a person and as a writer she seems to have matured into a richness of grace and love and forgiveness that is beautiful, and she is also of a formidable intelligence and breadth of knowledge.

We’d have to balance out the gender next, so I would invite CS Lewis. His writings and his poetry speak to me in a way that tells me that he views the world through a similar lens, and is moved by the same phenomena and ideas that move me also. It is his way of seeing and understanding and learning that gets me.

I might also invite George MacDonald, and CS Lewis and I could have a marvelous time. I came upon George MacDonald as a teenager, and while some of his theology is outrageous, I have a sympathy and kinship with many of his writings that runs deep. When I first read the stories of Malcolm McPhail, he set an impossible standard of goodness, but I have never forgotten them.

The last guest would perhaps be Dietrich Bonhoeffer, because how, how fascinating would that be? I had my doubts about he and CS Lewis in the same room, but I think their common ground would be in the exacting requirements of what it meant to them personally to live out what the said they believed. To me they were both quite uncompromising on this point.

And with all these folks in the same room I would probably hardly dare open my mouth.

As for the food, well, you know, this is hard. I might go for something old-time and continental or British. I’m leaning towards beef medallions and lamb shanks, with something fancy in the way of garnishing, then bowls of steaming mashed potatoes and roast vegetables, hot buttered bread. For dessert there would be baked cheesecake, because that is non-negotiable. A fine wine and some port for later.

This must take place in a room of rustic ambience with an open fire, in a stone house down a cobbled lane. While we ate a fog would roll in. Perhaps we would listen to Wagner, or Bonhoeffer might sing. After dinner there would be poetry, and readings (I’ve just realised that every single one of these people were authors, and many turned their pens to poetry) then they would all shrug into their coats in the small hours of the morning and vanish into the mist.

* I’ve also just realised that each of these people already has their own label on this blog, which is perhaps telling of their influence in my life.


  • Ali:
    This is absolutely brilliant !! I love your choice of dinner guests, the planned repast and the after dinner entertainment — I have often thought of doing an imaginary party (dinner or otherwise)and invite my favorite authors, world travellers, historians, etc. You have prompted me to do just that.

    I cannot tell you how much I enjoy and appreciate your blog. You have shared so many wonderful authors with us. as well as music and poetry. I hope that the future will allow you to continue to share your Christ filled life with us.

    Sending you much JOY from far a way San Francisco,
    Judith (AKA: MamaMeow)

    PS: a very long time ago the brilliant Steve Allen did a program for PBS here in the US called MEETING OF THE MINDS — he invited notable individuals(ie: Karl Marx, Attila the Hun, Renoir, Marie Antoinette, etc. all played by local LA actors) to a round table discussion of politics, art, literature. The program was something not to be missed, but unfortunately it was never renewed by PBS — I think it only lasted one season.

  • Dear Judith, what a very charming comment. Thanks so much for your encouragement and joy sent.

    I hope you do host that imaginary dinner party!

    Meeting of the Minds does indeed sound like fascinating TV (though perhaps a challenge for the actors). I might even see if I can find any trace of it here in Australia.

    Thanks again and lovely to hear from you,

  • Brilliant. I love your list. Tricky to get the gender balance happening. I was thinking of JI Packer to address my gender inequity but I just didn't think I could put this dear man in the same room as Melman.

    Thanks for joining in. I have had internet issues hence the tardy reply here and not getting you up on my blog but will get to that later today.

    Hope you are well and that your thinking and planning for what comes next is coming along.

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