not in our stars, but in ourselves
You know the old hypothetical, useful at cocktail parties and the like: if you could invite any five fictional/historical/mythological/what-have-you people over for a dinner party, whom would you select, and why? At some stages of my life, I would have invited five dashing, debonair types: Astaire, Grant, Nabokov, Waltz, Keaton, that kind of thing. But now I think – perhaps because I’m in a slightly, um, different place these days – I’ve settled on an absolutely ideal (albeit completely different) dinner party. Without further ado:
Hannibal Lecter (Mikkelsen edition)
This is a no-brainer, of course. In fact, he would probably be the chef. (I would humbly insist on avoiding certain meats, as far as politeness allowed.) Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is a fabulous dinner guest: refined, intelligent, interested in a broad spectrum of human folly, devilishly funny, and not too hard on the eyes. And while he may be putting us all on, his philosophy (espoused in the most recent episode, “Takiawase”) is that the concept of death frees him to enjoy the beauty in life. Who knows when it will end (when Hannibal will make you into mincemeat)? You may as well have a good time before then.
Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins edition)
Am I cheating for including the same character twice? Who asked you? Besides, Hopkins’s Lecter is a very different animal. Both versions obviously enjoy playing cat and mouse with their interrogators/associates/imprisoners – but there’s a far less disguised cruelty in Hopkins. He’s been locked up for too long, perhaps, and he’s furious about it. (I’d be furious if Chilton were my doctor, too.) Furthermore, as a man who’s been locked up, he is especially interested in the female specimens he encounters. I’m no Clarice, but I think I’d enjoy being in his male gaze. Or, you know, laser beam. Blow torch. Bully club. Whatever it is. He can bring a nice Chianti.
It’s another bon vivant psychopath! You see, I have a type. When he’s not talking about how the world is a foul sty and nothing matters anyway, he’s quite a charmer. When he is talking about how the world is a foul sty and nothing matters anyway, I find myself nodding my head in earnest agreement. Whatever he’s talking about, I find myself wanting to swim in the rich, sonorous tones of his voice and stare dreamily at his boyishly handsome face. I don’t care for sparkling red wine, so he had better bring some proper champagne…and an emerald ring…and The Merry Widow.
Okay, first of all, you boners once again failed in your duties to strap me to a chair and make me watch a fucking amazing TV show. I didn’t start watching until the season was a few episodes in, and then I became obsessed. Last weekend I marathoned all eight episodes, and stayed up until 3:30 a.m., and I have zero regrets. Anyway. Rust Cohle comes as close as anyone to espousing my own particular philosophy (not that I’ve ever articulated it so eloquently and meanderingly as he does). In fact, if anyone wants to collect Rust’s philosophical rants, put them together in a book, call it Rust and Stardust, and give it to me for a birthday present, I will go on at least one date with you. Unless you’re gross or horrible, in which case you can get the hell out of my beach community. Ahem. Rust will obviously bring each of us a six-pack of Lone Star, and fashion them into little aluminum men.
Well – Rust and the Joker espouse my philosophy. Like the Joker, I tend to see myself as an animal: all impulse, all instinct, very little planning or foresight. A dog chasing cars in his case; a bear looking for a picnic basket in mine. When the fancy strikes him, the Joker can be quite the chatterbox – either with stupid puns that a stupid person like me finds hysterical (“let’s not blow this out of proportion”) or with dead accurate (according to me) assessments of the world as it is: chaos is fair, people make plans that are horrifying, madness is like gravity, and so on. Really, he’s the Marx Brothers of the supervillain world: introducing a little anarchy, just to keep everyone on their toes. Sounds like a fun dinner guest to me! He would have to bring some sort of flambé dish; perhaps Bombe Alaska?
Now, how would the dinner go? I assume the two Hannibals would grin at each other like a couple of cats plotting a canary massacre throughout the evening; with luck, one of them would turn to me, gaze at me tenderly, and say, “Darling, let’s eat out tonight.” Uncle Charlie would be perfectly genial, but he’d wring his napkin, his neighbor’s napkin, the table cloth, and then someone’s neck – somewhere between the third and fourth courses, probably. Rust would recognize that he was a bad men among other bad men, and that he perhaps should do something about it; but mostly, he’d reflect aloud and at length about how human consciousness was a tragic misstep in evolution. (Expect the Hannibals to shoot him some dagger looks at this point.) The Joker, for his part, probably wouldn’t eat much, and would try to start a nice game of Russian Roulette.
As for me, I would absolutely be dead by the end of the night. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.