A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Fiction

A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Fiction

by Suzette Field
     
 

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Forty of the greatest fictional festivities as seen through the eyes of the world's greatest writers.

People love to party. And writers love to attend and document these occasions. The party is a useful literary device, not only for social commentary and satire but also as an occasion where characters can meet, fall in and out of love, or even get murdered.

Overview

Forty of the greatest fictional festivities as seen through the eyes of the world's greatest writers.

People love to party. And writers love to attend and document these occasions. The party is a useful literary device, not only for social commentary and satire but also as an occasion where characters can meet, fall in and out of love, or even get murdered.

A Curious Invitation is a humorous and informative guide to literature's most memorable parties. Some of these parties are depictions of real events, like the Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of battle with Napoleon in Thackeray's Vanity Fair; others draw on the authors' experience of the society they lived in, such as Lady Metroland's party in Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies; while others come straight from the writer's bizarre imagination, like Douglas Adams' flying party above an unknown planet from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Witty, entertaining, and full of fabulous detail, A Curious Invitation offers readers the chance to crash some of the great parties in literary history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With panache, attention to arresting details, and a flair for mixing literary classics with pop-culture hits, prominent London event planner Field invites readers to 40 fictional parties, including those portrayed in Plato’s Symposium, Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, and Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. One of the most delightful? The Onion Cellar from Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum, where patrons chop raw onions into tiny pieces while pouring out their hearts to each other in weepy camaraderie, the inspiration for Field’s own popular event, Evenings of Exquisite Misery. Eccentric and witty, Field bypasses the obvious while favoring the frequently overlooked. In lieu of the Mad Tea Party, Fields treats us to Queen Alice’s Feast (from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There), where eating a dish once it has introduced itself to you constitutes a grievous breach of etiquette. Field’s tone is one of breezy erudition. The conversation at the Pooh party (in Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne) is “Beckettian,” while Gravity’s Rainbow has “a reputation for being dense and difficult to understand, but it’s really just a picaresque romp.” Occasionally, Field’s irreverent asides seem merely facetious (“One can only hope that Hollywood Dogs is in the pipeline,” she writes of the spin-offs from Jackie Collins’s Hollywood Wives). Fortunately, she quotes lavishly from her sources to splendid effect. Agent: Ivan Mulcahy, Mulcahy Conway Associates. (Oct.)
Dan Cruickshank
"Suzette Field is a genuinely talented story teller. Her book possess a playful lightness of touch, but is pregnant with fact and meaning. It is both amusing and informative. Never has education been such a pleasure, never reading a learned exposition so delightful."
Dan Cruickshank Art historian
“Suzette Field is a genuinely talented story teller. Her book possess a playful lightness of touch, but is pregnant with fact and meaning. It is both amusing and informative. Never has education been such a pleasure, never reading a learned exposition so delightful.”
Vogue.com
“Holiday hostesses will find much to inspire in London impresario Suzette Field’s A Curious Invitation, from the fancy dress ball at Manderley to Jay Gatsby’s Prohibition-era decadence.”
Boston Globe
“In ‘A Curious Invitation,’ Suzette Field collects 40 and dissects them with great wit and insight. . . . Re-living the festivities in well-loved books is part of the charm of this one; even more exhilarating, perhaps, is meeting intriguing new writers.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“London event planner Field takes us across time and continents to 40 of the best parties in fiction. Like the social pages of a newspaper - but way more entertaining . . . Armchair party-crashing at its finest.”
Daily Telegraph (London)
“It takes a book like Suzette Field’s A Curious Invitation to remind us of the absolute centrality of social entertainment to the way in which a literary classic works its spell.”
Wall Street Journal
“Need a bit of entertaining inspiration? Take a page from a new book on the greatest gatherings that never were.”
Kirkus Reviews
Events promoter Field summarizes soirees that only happen between the covers of a book--or when her Last Tuesday Society reproduces them in London. Though it begins with Trimalchio's first-century frolic from The Satyricon and closes with an excessive 2008 feast featuring endangered species from DBC Pierre's Lights Out in Wonderland, Field's scattershot collection doesn't otherwise progress in chronological order--or any other discernible kind of order. The final few get-togethers are fairly apocalyptic: The high school prom turns bloody in Carrie; partygoers eat the dead guest of honor in Finnegan's Wake; and Randle McMurphy's shindig in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest results in a lobotomy for the host, though Pierre's hero/caterer does have second thoughts about serving up a 100-year-old Galapagos tortoise in the final entry. Fielddoes have a format for presenting the individual parties, from The Invitation through The Guest List to The Outcome and The Legacy, but it's mostly an excuse to make reasonably amusing wisecracks about how English writers never describe the food and condescending takedowns of writers more talented than she is. Granted, it's hard not to giggle when Field opines that if Frodo had known that the gift he got at Uncle Bilbo's Eleventy-First Birthday Party was the Ring of Doom, he could have saved himself "all the aggro and bother it would cause him over the next thousand pages or so." Unfortunately, too much of the humor is on the level of this: "Plato is perhaps best remembered these days in the term ‘platonic love,' but, as we see…he didn't rule out a bit of rumpy-pumpy on the path to enlightenment." Still, Field's once-over-lightly approach will probably please undemanding folks looking for a few laughs while they obtain simple takeaways on books they'll never read: The Brothers Karamazov, Gravity's Rainbow and The Prose Edda are among the more daunting works digested, though Hollywood Wives adds a bit of trashy fluff. Like the chatter at a cocktail party: fun but forgettable.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062271839
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/15/2013
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
785,429
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

What People are saying about this

Dan Cruickshank Art historian

“Suzette Field is a genuinely talented story teller. Her book possess a playful lightness of touch, but is pregnant with fact and meaning. It is both amusing and informative. Never has education been such a pleasure, never reading a learned exposition so delightful.”

Meet the Author

Suzette Field was born and raised in Los Angeles. In 1996 she moved to England to continue her education and never got around to going home. She is now Tribune of the Last Tuesday Society, one of London's premier events promoters. While not arranging glamorous extravaganzas, Suzette has been locked away in the London Library's splendid Georgian reading rooms writing A Curious Invitation, her first book.

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