How to Party like Mrs. Dalloway

  1. First,  go out for the flowers yourself. That’s the easy job, getting the flowers. Leave the dirty work to someone else, like scrubbing the kitchen or removing doors from hinges.
  2. Speaking of the help, remember they will become overwhelmed by the demands you are placing upon them. While perfection is a must, keep in mind it’s highly unlikely you will have a Prime Minister in attendance. Therefore ease up on the help.
  3. As hostess you should dress in your most flattering attire. An old love will be in attendance, and you’ll want to remind them of the person you once were.
  4. If you insist on segregating your party after the food has been consumed, might I suggest to not segregate by gender? Instead allow the party to segregate themselves into groups: single people looking for a bit of flirty fun, those who know each other through the work they do, people with kids, etc.
  5. No matter how hard you try and entertain your guests there will always be one person who wished they never came to your party.
  6. As people come and go you may wonder if your party is a success. You will wonder if your presence as hostess matters at all. If people are talking, eating, and drinking, then be proud of your  party’s success. After all, the hostess sets the tone.
  7. As you mingle with your guests note how they all appeared to have failed in their lives.  A twenty-first century soundtrack might include bands from the New Romantic period. Merely a suggestion.
  8. Guests should never bring up topics like suicide, as death is sure to be a buzz kill. If someone does you have the right to feel annoyed.
  9. If you find you are not having the same level of fun as your guests, that is to be expected.  Hostessing, after all, is work–and not for the faint of heart.
  10. A party isn’t the place for the hostess to consider one’s own aging body or mortality. However, if you feel the need to go there please find an unoccupied room where you can retreat and reflect. A quote (or two) from Shakespeare might be in order. Regrets, we’ve all had a few, an acceptance of them can help you press on.



The Last 5 Books I’ve Read

Observations on the last five books I read:

  • All but one of the last five books I have read are hardback
  • Two of them are nonfiction
  • All five are written by women and about women
  • One was written by a new author
  • Their covers are shades of blue, white, and gold
  • Three of the books were written in 2017. One in 2016,  one in 2014

Of the five, all are well-written page turners that left me feeling something at the end of the experience.

  1. Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit.  Found this book while visiting Burlington, Vermont.  Men explain things to me often, so the title drew me in. Read this book to ignite your voice. If you are a women you may be feeling defeated in this New World Order. Solint’s book is a rallying cry: We will Persist!
  2. A Word for Love, Emily Robbins.  The book arrived in my monthly subscription box. The author went to college in my town, won a lot of prestigious awards, and makes me feel like a sloth. A page-turner because the story (set in the Middle East) took me out of my known world. Good for the beach or subway-ride reading.
  3. South and West: From a Notebook, Joan Didion. While in Cleveland, Ohio I paid a visit to a bookstore that employed a cat to greet and chase mice. The cat sat at my feet while I paged through Didion’s book. The cat kept interrupting me to force me to pet him. A nearby clerk reminded me it was International Women’s Day. To celebrate I bought the book. I find Didion’s prose relaxing, like finding shade on a porch after during a smoldering hot day.  She (and I) spent more time in the South then the West, but that was fine by me. This is Didion–and why you read this book.
  4. All Grown Up, Jami Attenberg.  Another book that arrived in my monthly subscription service, along with a candle we had to toss because the smell made me want to puke.  The characters in the novel are strong, fully developed, and familiar.  I’d recommend this to any Gen-Xer still trying to figure out who they are and where they are going.
  5. Transit, Rachel Cusk. Cusk is my current author crush. I want to be her intelligent protagonists. Her novel’s themes are always moving and reflective.  What most intrigues me about Cusk’s writing is her use of the protagonist as a conduit of non-reactive observation on the characters around her.




How The Muse by Jessie Burton Will Satisfy Your Bookgroup

Once I belonged to a book group.  Mostly women, we met every six weeks to discuss the book we democratically agreed upon.  After a decade of participating in this group I learned a few things about book groups:

  1. More people will not have finished the book than have
  2. Division between who  liked it and who didn’t will occur
  3. You will be forced to read books you normally would never pick up
  4. The best discussions come when readers identify with the characters

When I read The Muse I thought, I wish I had a book group for this novel!  Burton writes very compelling characters who are complicated, not always likable, but are driven by passion.  In many of the characters I found I could identify. Who among us has not wanted to belong, fell in love, suffered frustration over the limitations of your gender, was ambitious?  You may walk away from this story with more questions than answers, which is just one reason The Muse will make for a satisfying discussion.

Here are the 7 discussion questions I’d want to chat about over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

  1. Why do you think Isaac accepted the arrangement with Olive?
  2. Why do you think Burton made Odell Caribbean émigré? How is that important to the story?
  3. The Muse is a story about poverty and privilege.  How do these complicated societal systems play into the narrative?
  4. Talk about the relationships between Olive and Teresa, Marjorie Quick and Odell.  How  were the relationships similar/different? How did these relationship make you feel?
  5. Do you think The Muse is a feminist novel? Why or why not?
  6. Ambition is another important theme in the novel.  How does ambition affect the characters? The story?
  7. The novel is filled with secrets and deceptions, with Odell in the role of detective. Why do you think it was important to Odell to figure this mystery out? Why was she so driven to do so?

If you have read The Muse I’d love to hear your thoughts to the questions above.  Happy reading!