As the holiday party season kicks up, people will be on the hunt for themes. One we’d like to suggest, a perennial Flavorwire favorite, is the Literary Cocktail Party. Everybody likes the Literary Holiday Party in theory, because in theory it involves a lot of fun, nerdy conversations about books held over delicious cocktails. Everything sparkles: the outfits, the cocktail glasses, the conversation.
But here’s the thing: reality casts just as cruel a light on literary parties as it does on other things. Even the usual attendees of such functions in the publishing centers of the world — people Dorothy Parker used to call “literary Rotarians” — could be brought to agree that not all parties succeed just because they have a bookish character to them. So, here follow our tips, culled both from experience and from literary history.
1. Don’t worry about decor. “Real” literary parties are not generally glamorous affairs. I have now attended a few, and can vouch for this! In general people just wander about undecorated rooms and bookstores. They wear ratty cardigans and plastic-framed glasses, and drink out of clear plastic cups. Writers cannot afford glassware, let alone coordinated glassware, and in general do not believe in clothing beyond its purely functional value. They will react the same way to a properly tended bar as they will to a table littered with bottles of Maker’s Mark and store-brand cola. So no need to stress about aesthetics.
2. Do worry about lighting. Lighting can be everything at a literary party. Writers have sickly pallors, owing to a combination of Diet Coke and/or coffee and/or badly lit garrets. In other words: overhead fluorescent lighting is to be avoided at all costs.