Cocktail Party Reading

The World's Drinks And How To Mix Them
The World's Drinks And How To Mix Them (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometime in high school, it occurred to me that in order to enjoy the many cocktail parties I would undoubtedly be attending as an adult, I had better darn well read as many of the great works of western literature as I could. You can see now the issue at the center of so many of my problems: grandiosity paired with sheer obliviousness.

That being said, here are my top five books for scintillating cocktail party conversations. Luckily for you, you don't have to actually read them. Just use these handy references and you will be the belle of the ball.

1. The Odyssey by Homer. When people talk about Sirens and Cyclopses you'll want to be able to jump right in.  Say, "Ah, Yes, 'Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course.'"  People will know not to mess with you after that.

2. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Spoiler: Everyone dies. When people bring up Lady Macbeth say, "Out, out, damn spot." People will nod knowingly.

3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This one is good when you go to some public meeting and see women in the audience knitting. Rest assured, someone will nudge you, point at the knitter and say, "Look at Madame DeFarge over there." To which you need only say, "When the revolution comes..."

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If people ask if your dog is named after the main character of this classic tale, save yourself trouble and just say yes.

5.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Cocktails parties are full of people saying "Expelliarmus!"  Just say, "Petrificus Totalis!"

Now here is my blogger challenge: Post your own list of mandatory reading. Mine is for cocktail parties, your list can be for whatever you want.  Let the fun begin!

(PS: The above list is not a guarantee of cocktail party conversation success strategies.)

PPS: Margaret Finnegan wonders what she could possibly have been thinking in high school. She is currently under the impression that her delusion was fueled by equal parts Noel Coward, Agatha Christie, and Cary Grant.)

(PPPS: Margaret Finnegan is going to be brutally honest now and tell you that she really doesn't think she has ever been to a cocktail party in her entire life, but she has been to parties where people yell "Expelliarmus.")

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Anonymous said...

Oh, Margaret, you are just too young! Cocktail parties were at their height in the '50s and '60s, though thank the Goddess (and Mad Men), cocktail parties are making a comeback in a retro '60s kind of way. Thanks for the heads-up on Cocktail Party reading. I'll be sure to do my homework before I attend the next one.

Desiree said...

oooh, ooh, I want to play!
First, I think I'd better host a cocktail party and invite you--
Books to sound snooty (in a rather elegant and sophisticated way)
Alain do Bottin's "Consolations of Philosophy." Be sure to give his name the correct French nasal twang.
Call him the Montaigne of our day, and people will either a)be in awe, b) admire or c) avoid you.

Next, mention "The New Jim Crow" as you discuss the evolution of civil rights, and drop veiled hints about the prison industrial complex. (If you do do this, don't blame me if that was your first and last cocktail party.)

Lastly, mention the 50 shades of gray spoof your friend Margaret wrote, so people know you can keep it real.

Deb @ Paper Turtle said...

Haha - you're hilarious, Margaret. Doug's favorit movie is "To Kill a Mockingbird" and that's the only way I knew about Scout. And come to think of it, I guess I've never been to a cocktail party either. Bummer for all the drinking-and-driving rules now, otherwise I'd be on it!

Olga said...

My experience with cocktail parties is that having a name like "Olga" is all it takes. Inebriated men are going to want to claim that they know I am a Russian spy and it's okay because they themselves are double agents. Blah, blah, blah. Can I feel your breast...just to check for wires, of course. If cocktail parties are coming back, maybe I will change my name to Melinda.

Petrea Burchard said...

I've been to parties where people drank a lot of alcohol, does that count?

If someone mentions Sartre, just put the back of your hand to your forehead and say, "Oh, mon dieu, the ennui," and walk away. That'll show 'em.

Daisy said...

"Cocktail Party" brings the image at the beginning of PBS's Mystery
Theatre. Ohhhhhh! (as she faints, cocktail in hand)I wonder what is in her drink.

I love a good mystery book: Nevada Barr, John Grishom, Sue Grafton.

Katie said...

Too funny! I'll bookmark this post for the next time I'm headed to a cocktail party. I don't have a list, but I've always remembered Hawkeye's pre-date advice to Radar: if she says she likes Bach, look pensive and say "Ahhhh, Bach."

Jean Spitzer said...

I think we had something in common, in high school.

I recently picked up a new bit of knowledge, sure to be a winner at the cocktail party of your dreams: when talk turns to Sartre, launch into a critique and appreciation of the illustrator of many of his books, Walter Spitzer.

And don't neglect to speak of daVinci's genius idea for landscape drawing, which you picked up from reading his, On Painting.

Laurie said...

I always loved Woody Allen's line while looking at a piece of modern art at an opening: "It has a terrific sense of otherness."

I'm working on my list of required reading for children's play dates. Trust me, they're harder than you think. (And they have a terrific sense of otherness.)

I'm reminded of the snooty hipster parties back in college where someone would be discussing Reifenstahl's influence on film with a guy who was convinced he could create a perpetual motion machine with US grant money and plenty of weed. But that's another list.

Ah Bach!

Alison said...

Great post Margaret...I remember feeling the need to buy F Scott Fitzgerald books..and totally blame Robert Redford (I never got past the first chapter of THE GREAT GATSBY!)
Alison xx

Pasadena Adjacent said...

"Big Foot walks amongst us" works for me

Mister Earl said...

Nowadays the talk goes like this: "Do you read Glimpses of South Pasadena? You really should, you know. How about Margaret Finnegan's blog? Patch? Do you ever read Patch? You really should read some Bugge." Then I cap it off with, "I don't always drink beer, but when I do..."

Ms M said...

Great post -- and comments!

I've been to parties where people are drinking alcohol, but they were typically discussing old music: "You gotta say that the Stones' 'Exile on Main Street' is the ultimate!"
Or older music: "Yes, they did well on the Handel, but, oh, the Mahler..."

To the first, you reply: "Hey, Keith rocks!"
To the second: "Ah, that was during his middle period."

Cafe Pasadena said...

Thanks for this list of books to drink with, MF. My fav cocktail parties are at bars/pubs.

And I've just come across a new one which will surely be one of the cocktail classics: The Goddess Lounge! It's Sex, Women, & Canines!

Asks the eternal question: Who is womans best friend - a mad man or a Dog?

Ann Erdman said...

That's an impressive list for cocktail party chatter! Mine? Let's see...The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, The Bell Jar, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Gone with the Wind, The Holy Bible and The Diary of Anne Frank.

I think I need to dust these off before I have my next martini!

altadenahiker said...

Scout isn't Scout?

Susan Campisi said...

Funny post and comments! Such a clever crowd.

I love your PS disclaimer.