The Best Parties in Literature

To celebrate our new series of monthly soirées, The Book of Fête, we’re sharing our favourite literary parties – ones we wish we could have attended, or ones we just want to have been able to peek through the keyhole on.

Marieke Hardy, Artistic Director
God, I would literally elbow a small robust crowd out of the way to get an invitation to the titular Don’s Party, and not just because I am in possession of a wardrobe full of lowbrow 70’s suburban party outfits in desperate need of airing. The idea of standing around a living room drinking cheap booze and eating cheese on a stick and shouting at election results is ACTUALLY MY DREAM EVENING. Don’s Party has sexual betrayal, violent arguments between old friends, a federal election ticking over in real time and the immortally offensive greeting ‘G’day c**tfeatures!’. It is a time capsule of Australian politics, it is bawdy and tasteless and provocative and full of heart. I would arrive with a cask under my arm and leave at 7am wearing Graham Kennedy’s safari shorts on my head.

Shona Barrett, CEO
I wish I had been around in the heyday of Bohemian London, to observe the delightfully miserable alcohol-fuelled gatherings in Scamp by Roland Camberton. Idealistic Ivan Ginsberg dreams of establishing his very own, very influential, literary journal, and moves between the pubs and cafes of London’s Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia (neighbourhoods steeped in literary history) with a cast of dubious intellects. Many of the pubs that play host to their alternately hopeful and despairing drinking sessions still stand: buy a pint in the Fitzroy Tavern or Pillars of Hercules, and you can just imagine all the literary dreams trodden into the sticky carpets.

Jessica Alice, Program Manager
While it’s nowhere near as extravagant as the parties in The Great Gatsby, I love the beauty and intensity of the scene at the Villa Diana in F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Dick Diver throws a dinner party at his mansion on the French Riviera; the guests carry lanterns up the path and are seated around a table in the garden, ‘giving the people around it a sense of being alone with each other in the dark universe, nourished by its only food, warmed by its only lights.’ But an incident occurs, foreshadowing the end of the carefully curated selves Dick has created for him and his wife Nicole. Fitzgerald gives the night scene a ritualistic, evocative power as Dick strives to create light and life in the midst of darkness and decay. I love how we feel the enchantment and interconnectedness of the guests, created by Dick’s immense grace, and the melancholy that follows after he illuminates the night.

Kylie Eddy, Marketing & Development Manager
I would have loved to have been a guest at the dinner party in Babette’s Feast. The story centres around Babette, a refugee who is taken in by two sisters in a small village to work as their housekeeper. When Babette wins a lottery she decides to cook a delicious dinner for the sisters and their friends without telling them that she will spend her entire winnings on this meal. The evening consists of an extravagant seven course French dinner which Babette has poured her heart and soul into masterfully preparing down to the minute detail. The villagers have never experienced this kind of heavenly feast and are moved to tears. When the sisters find out that she has spent all of the money on one dinner they exclaim, ‘Now you will be poor the rest of your life’, to which Babette replies, ‘An artist is never poor.’

Tamsien West, Development Executive
As a Harry Potter fan there are plenty of feasts and balls I would have loved to attend. But the strangest party in the series by far was officially titled Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington’s 500th Deathday party. The gathering of ghosts included a candlelit dinner of rancid, moulded food, and in pride of place, an enormous grey cake in the shape of a tombstone. There was a ghost orchestra playing the musical saw, and the party was gate-crashed by the Headless Hunt, who played a game of Head Hockey, disrupting the party. As Hermione observed, ‘I bet there aren’t many living people who can say they’ve been to one of those!’ and I’d quite like to be included in that exclusive club as an attendee of the weirdest party Hogwarts had seen in 500 years.

Irene Kalpakas, Marketing Coordinator
I’d like to be at one of Gatsby’s famous Saturday night bashes, but not for the frivolities. I’d seek out old sport Jay, staring wistfully out at his green light, and say, look mate, throwing parties just to get Daisy’s attention is a bit desperate, maybe you should just move on? It is, after all, the 1920s equivalent of posting a fire selfie on your social story and hoping your crush will notice (officially known as Gatsbying), which – maybe it’s just me – seems to have about a 0.0345% success rate, and you’re better off making some real friends who might show up to your funeral (or like your selfies).

Emilie Zoey Baker, Schools’ Program Producer
If you are attending a party and know all the guests are going to turn to powder ‘at the first cock crow’, then you party harder than Prince in 1999. Which is why I’d like to attend Satan’s Rout from The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. On a full-mooned spring night in 1930s Moscow, the Devil throws a debauched event in an old apartment. He transforms the modest pad into a tropical forest wonderland complete with birds of paradise, butterflies the colour of candy, and vines dripping with exotic flowers. There are parrots with emerald tails and scarlet bellies that swoop and scream ‘ECSTASY! ECSTASY!’ in your face. There’s also ornamental fountains everywhere spurting champagne, while naked men in turbans scoop up servings in silver goblets. And…the Devil has an ape jazz band. Yep. A jazz band. WITH APES. SAXOPHONE APES! SCATTING MONKEYS! The party consists of damned souls – all the most excellently evil types. It’s an intense, weird, passionate evening. Which it has to be, ’cause the early morning powder death. So yeah. It would likely be my last party. But it would be worth it.


Love literary parties? The Book of Fête is right up your alley. Chapter One is on sale now – get your tickets here.

Image: Warner Bros Pictures / 360VR