THE ULTIMATE LITERARY BALL
There’s a game my critique partners and I used to play called Tea Party. The rules were fairly simple: we would each name a person—living or dead—that we would invite to our fictional gathering and go ‘round. It wasn’t much of a game, but it was a fun way to get to know each other in the early days of our group. We gave careful thought to who we would invite and why, thinking about the overall chemistry of the attendees.
The ability to carry on conversation is crucial at tea parties, but I’ve been thinking about what sort of characters I would invite to a literary ball and why.
Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Lizzy is delightful, and my favorite of Austen’s heroines for her sense of humor. The strain of hosting a party turns me into an absolute boor, but having a friend like Elizabeth around to make me laugh with her sharp observations about the guests would go a long way in keeping me civil and sane.
Sir John Falstaff from William Shakespeare’s Henriad cycle
Anyone with a zest for life and the enjoyment of its finer things is welcome at my party. Should the ball grow dull or awkward, I’m sure I can rely on Falstaff to stir things up again. Never underestimate the value of a good-hearted fool, for they disguise their wisdom with wit.
Anne Shirley from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables
I’ve always felt as though Anne and I would be “kindred spirits” (as she says); we were each romantic, dreamy, misadventure-prone girls with a tendency toward writing maudlin and melodramatic stories. In many ways, Anne feels like my oldest girlfriend; I first met here when I was 7 and she was 11, and we grew up together. I have loved every version of Anne: from hapless schoolgirl to sophisticated co-ed to loving wife and mother. She’ll fit right in at my ball, just as she has in the rest of my life.
Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series
It’s probably not a great idea to invite a thief to a ball, even if said thief is missing a hand. I can’t help it; Eugenides is one of my favorite characters of all time. I admire wily, slippery types, and Gen can probably be relied on to have several tricks up his sleeve at any given time. Keeps the party guests on their toes, anyway.
The Darkling from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy
Well someone has to stand in the corner and look brooding, mysterious, and tragically beautiful, right?