Events promoter Field summarizes soirees that only happen between the covers of a book—or when her Last Tuesday Society reproduces them in London.
Though it begins with Trimalchio’s first-century frolic from The Satyricon and closes with an excessive 2008 feast featuring endangered species from DBC Pierre’s Lights Out in Wonderland, Field’s scattershot collection doesn’t otherwise progress in chronological order—or any other discernible kind of order. The final few get-togethers are fairly apocalyptic: The high school prom turns bloody in Carrie; partygoers eat the dead guest of honor in Finnegan’s Wake; and Randle McMurphy’s shindig in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest results in a lobotomy for the host, though Pierre’s hero/caterer does have second thoughts about serving up a 100-year-old Galapagos tortoise in the final entry. Field does have a format for presenting the individual parties, from The Invitation through The Guest List to The Outcome and The Legacy, but it’s mostly an excuse to make reasonably amusing wisecracks about how English writers never describe the food and condescending takedowns of writers more talented than she is. Granted, it’s hard not to giggle when Field opines that if Frodo had known that the gift he got at Uncle Bilbo’s Eleventy-First Birthday Party was the Ring of Doom, he could have saved himself “all the aggro and bother it would cause him over the next thousand pages or so.” Unfortunately, too much of the humor is on the level of this: “Plato is perhaps best remembered these days in the term ‘platonic love,’ but, as we see…he didn’t rule out a bit of rumpy-pumpy on the path to enlightenment.” Still, Field’s once-over-lightly approach will probably please undemanding folks looking for a few laughs while they obtain simple takeaways on books they’ll never read: The Brothers Karamazov, Gravity’s Rainbow and The Prose Edda are among the more daunting works digested, though Hollywood Wives adds a bit of trashy fluff.
Like the chatter at a cocktail party: fun but forgettable.