Read It Forward

Five Authors Jenni Fagan Would Invite to a Dinner Party
The author of The Sunlight Pilgrims picks her dream dinner dates.

First published by Read It Forward
BY JENNI FAGAN • 4 DAYS AGO

If you could invite five famous authors—dead or living—to dinner, who would you choose, and what would you serve? Today on Read it Forward, novelist Jenni Fagan hosts the dinner party of her dreams. Salut!

Gertrude Stein
I wish I’d spent time at Gertrude Stein’s extraordinary salon in Paris. She is a big influence on me. I would want to hear stories about all the painters she knew, how they arrived at automatism, what were the most banal and ordinary things she can recall of the surrealists, and who was the bravest? Also, I’d ask her if she ever used her wife Alice B. Toklas’s cookbook.

Nick Cave
I am a fan of Nick’s prose and I truly adore him as a musician. A dinner party made solely of writers would be dreadful, so we need at least one person who can get on the piano, involve us all in a sing-a-long, and have us waltzing on the patio before dinner. And is it just me, or would he have the best jokes and stories? I’d want to know how he found all those eras and musicians, from no-wave and punk, to garage rock and lo-fi. And if he played The Ship Song at the end of the evening, I could, in all honesty, die happy.

Leonora Carrington
I love Leonora for everything really—her painting, her prose, her politics, her astonishing life. I also love her quotes about writing: “The task of the right eye is to peer through the telescope, while the left eye peers into the microscope,” or another favorite, “People under seventy and over seven are unreliable if they are not cats.”

Reinaldo Arenas
Reinaldo Arenas once said, “There’s just one place to live—the impossible.” He also said, “I have always considered it despicable to grovel for your life as if life were a favor. If you cannot live the way you want, there is no point in living.” I would want to know everything; about his years incarcerated for being a gay man in Cuba under Castro’s regime; his move to New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and his departure from Cuba on a boat for criminals, disabled or gay citizens; his lovers, his mother, his relationship to landscapes. His uprootedness and dislocation speak to me profoundly.

Helen Oyeyemi
I happen to know that Helen Oyeyemi is not only one of the best writers of our time but also, the most charming dinner guest. The first time we met she told me about a clock in Prague that can tell the time on the moon, how she had grown obsessed with keys and also what was great and good in Korean horror movies. I’d polish my teapots and serve an array of teas in the early morning before they all went home, which I know she would appreciate.

~Menu~

Pre-dinner drink:
The Paloma—a Mexican cocktail: ingredients—1/4 mezcal, 1/4 fresh grapefruit juice, wedge of lime & 1/4 soda, kosher salt, crushed ice. Run lime around the rim of the glass, dip in salt, mix your ingredients, add ice.

I am sure it is best to start a dinner party with drinks and dancing so you are more ready to sit, chat, eat later in the evening. Leonora Carrington spent most of her adult life in Mexico City, so I am hoping she might like this spirited start to the evening.

Starter:
In honor of Reinaldo Arenas, I would make Cassava bread, made from cassava flour (great if you are Paleo), and serve with tapenade on the side and a piri piri sauce for dipping.

Selection of Spanish Tapas (vegetarian for Nick Cave)—black olives, Ajillo mushrooms, Habas ala Catalana (smothered broad beans with sausage), Espinacas Con Garbanzos (spinach and chickpeas), Alubias Verdes con Ajo (green beans with garlic).

These would be small dishes that are easy to pick at—just to take the edge off our Palomas and prepare us for the main course.

I’d also hope Reinaldo might bring a few nice Cuban cigars for later, I’m sure he’d appreciate a smoke on the patio late at night, as would Gertrude for that matter.

Main:
I’d like to cook a meal that is easy to serve and enjoy—so we can focus on chatting. I’d make paella, the first would be a vegetarian version and for the second, I’d add seafood and chorizo.

Ingredients: Fresh saffron from the market in Istanbul. Garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, mushroom, peppers, chorizo, olive oil, scallops, black Irish mussels, free-range chicken, onion, tomatoes, peas, calamari, Calasparra paella rice.

Dessert:
This would not happen until much later. I have a feeling that after the last two courses, we’d all wander down a dark country road, have a look at the Milky Way in a starlit sky, have a few games of pool, or darts at the local pub—then head back to play music and dance. The garden would be lit by fireflies in jars. We’d have a selection of the finest Parisian patisserie cakes and I’d ask Gertrude about her favorite baker along the rue de Fleurus. I bet you she’d say Picasso had a sweet tooth.

And when all the food has been eaten:

Helen Oyeyemi lives in Prague and I’m sure she’d oblige with a bottle of plum brandy (Slivovitz—she knows where to get the good stuff) or perhaps a small absinthe, especially if we were on the cusp of an aurora that night, which I’d hope we would be. She’d be setting up a little outdoor cinema on the lawn, talking Nick Cave through the greatest Korean horror movies of all time, the porch would be wide and the weather mild, perhaps a stream nearby and a swing on a tall tree in the garden. I imagine Gertrude having a snooze on the porch under a blanket. Reinaldo telling me stories about the Cuban revolution and the grit of Hell’s Kitchen, and how his first novel was smuggled out of prison and over to Paris, the only place he could publish it at the time. Leonora would reminisce about founding the Women’s Liberation Movement in Mexico, her love affair with Max Ernst, running away from an asylum and creating a novel about her psychotic experience. We would discuss the extraordinary way she paints. Psychic freedom. Automatism. Surrealism. Keys. Clarity. Mirrors. We would chat all night in the garden where a rose, is a rose, is a rose.

Featured Image: Rawpixel/Shutterstock.com

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The Panopticon finds its North American home at Hogarth and Crown

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.” -Virginia Woolf.

 

In 1917, Virginia and Leonard Woolf started The Hogarth Press from their home, armed only with a handpress and a determination to publish the newest, most exciting writing. Hogarth brought the world authors who shaped the culture of the past 100 years: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster, Christopher Isherwood, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, Vita Sackville-West, to name a few.

This year, what began in London in 1917 finds a new life in New York and Hogarth’s goals are no less lofty: bring readers the authors who will shape the culture of the next 100 years: Anouk Markovits, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, Stephanie Reents, Jay Caspian-Kang, Vincent Lam, Shani Boianjiu, Lawrence Osborne, Ben Masters, and Jenni Fagan.

A rose, is a rose, is a rose. I adore Gertrude Stein, and vintage print presses that pushed the boundaries of what was possible for their authors. I am pathologically drawn to all beautiful books, old and new. Over the last week or so I have had some great conversations with Alexis Washam, Senior Editor at H&C, in New York, and I am hugely impressed by what this new imprint are bringing to the publishing world. I am exceptionally happy to announce that The Panopticon is being published by Hogarth and Crown in the US, Canada, Greenland and all of North America. I am one of those writers with a true travelling hobo soul — so to find this kind of home for The Panopticon — to see it continue its journey out into the world, is totally amazing! I will be looking forward to updating on this one, as and when news comes in. In the meantime I am about to read a bunch of books already being published by Hogarth, can’t wait, I hope they send the canvas bag too. I love to geek out on these things, I played in bands for a long time and it reminds me of great labels like 4AD, or Sub Pop, early Geffen, or Apple. It makes me dance anyway! 

Hogarth is publishing a list of all fiction, all the time: contemporary, voice-driven, character-rich, eclectic, adventurous, provocative, vividly written. “We are honored to create an American life for a great publishing name, and we look forward to building a list of worldly, provocative, and well-written works for a broad and lasting readership,” says Molly Stern, Publisher of Hogarth and Senior Vice President, Publisher, Crown Publishers.

Paris Was a Woman

I never do anything with my photography or my art, I give it to friends who like it then forget about it so here is a collection of my photographs over the last few years, this one above I took in the Tate Modern and so are a few below. I have no idea who these guys were on the other one below, I took it in a flat steel wall outside the lifts.

The crack in the one above was made by Cornelia Parker I think, I think she took a mallet to the concrete, or something.

These two below are my gate lady and my gate face, I found them on old gates – they feature in The Panopticon.

Gate Lady.

Shutter My Water Tree is the one below.

I’ll put my green man below, and the falling lady, they are both in oil.

So, for now I am going to sink a jug of Pimms and pick what I am reading next weekend for the Soho Literary Boutique and then for Degenerate Sweethearts & Rebel Scum on 3rd July at the Coach and Horses. I think I’ll preview a load of poems from my new collection The Dead Queen of Bohemia at Degenerate Sweethearts. The Soho Lit Boutique is on the Friday and is partly to launch Dwang 2 so I will read from that then a few from the hardback Urchin Belle. I can hear Joe and Scurvy talking in the garden about knowing what needs to be done, Phil Ochs is playing across the garden, Scurvy ended up in hospital twice last time they went out and he still has a hole in his head, ce la vie, sayonara, sing it again Sam and shimmy always, here is some Gertrude Stein Jxx