Jeffrey Eugenides Imagines His Favorite Writers Together at a Dinner Party

You’re organizing a dinner party of writers and can invite three authors, dead or alive. Who’s coming?

First I call Shakespeare. “Who else is coming?” Shakespeare asks. “Tolstoy,” I answer. “I’m busy that night,” Shakespeare says. Next I call Kafka, who agrees to come. “As long as you don’t invite Tolstoy.”  “I already invited Tolstoy,” I tell him. “But Kundera’s coming. You like Milan. And you guys can speak Czech.”  “I speak German,” Kafka corrects me.

When Tolstoy hears that Kundera’s coming, he drops out. (Something about an old book review.) So finally I call Joyce, who’s always available. When we get to the restaurant, Kafka wants a table in back. He’s afraid of being recognized. Joyce, who’s already plastered, says, “If anyone’s going to be recognized, it’s me.” Kundera leans over and whispers in my ear, “People might recognize us too if we went around with a cane.”

The waiter arrives. When he asks about food allergies, Kafka hands him a written list. Then he excuses himself to go to the bathroom. As soon as he’s gone, Kundera says, “The problem with Kafka is that he never got enough tail.” We all snicker. Joyce orders another bottle of wine. Finally, he turns and looks at me through his dark glasses. “I’m reading your new book,” he says. “Oh?” I say. “Yes,” says Joyce.

Jeffrey Eugenides, from an interview in the New York Times Book ReviewOctober 4, 2012.