A Literary Thanksgiving Feast

"Hard Times for These Times," Charles Dickens (1854). Drawing: "Mr. Harthouse Dining at the Bounderbys'."

On a big platter in the middle of the full table sits the fat novel, its dust jacket a cracking bronze, peeling at the edges, its pages sliced and curling, its story stuffed with, well, stuffing: characters mixed with plot in a warm, moist setting, everyone talking at once, voices waxing, then waning, then waxing again, still louder.

A bowl of essays is passed around the table; there’s plenty for everyone. There’s a new dish, something called “creative non-fiction.” I try some, but find it’s not so new, after all, for isn’t all writing creative? And anyway why would we want to read writing that is not creative?

“Pass the poems, please,” someone at the other end of the table says. Poems are like olives. Some have pits, putting your teeth at risk; others are pitted, hollow. Some poems are saltier than others, and may be filled with white almonds or cherry red pimento peppers. If you squeeze a poem you get cooking oil.  And like olive oil, the oil from poems might be extra-virgin, refined, or not potable.

A gravy bowl of APA-style sauce spills across the tablecloth and an argument ensues as to who is at fault, an argument of causation. “Why is that nasty stuff even on the table?” someone asks. A short scene flashes into a drama that quickly subsides with a denouement of dessert: The Emperor of Ice Cream appears with chocolate covered couplets.

But that’s not all, for then Sestina rolls in a six-layered, short story torte. It’s a literary feast, and in these hard times, we are thankful, at least, for literature.

Addendum: My sister Barb’s comment reminded me that I neglected to include beverages in the literary feast post, and I suggested she pick up a six pack of Ballads and maybe a couple of bottles of Memoir. Limericks might be served for pre-meal cocktails, unfermented satire for those who like less bite, but large jugs of stream of consciousness should be kept full and within reach, for readers will surely be thirsty.

Update, Nov. 24: Thanks to Berfrois for joining us at the table!


  1. I am loving it! Great one, I really like the Sestina, sounds yummy. I am going to make out my literary feast today to get my thanksgiving feast started. Thanks Joe!


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Good, Barb, and you might want to pick up a six pack of Ballads and maybe a couple of bottles of Memoir.


  2. Geannie Newell says:

    Your literary spin on Thanksgiving is delightful. It got me thinking about the poetry we studied – some as smooth as a bowl of whipped mashed potatoes and some that had the reader reaching for the pepto because digestion wasn’t easy. Some had me wondering what kind of a mind could have written such a thing.
    In between papers I have been reading On Writing Well by Zinsser and I hope I will benefit from it.
    Happy Thanksgiving Joe.

    Geannie Newell


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Thanks, Geannie: Yes, the purpose of poetry isn’t always to stir the appetite; sometimes it’s even a kind of syrup of ipecac. Zinsser is better than a textbook, and practical, enjoyable reading. I like the way the chapters are organized. He might exaggerate a bit at times, to make a point, but overall I think it’s a good idea and reference book. Hope you have a good week next week and enjoy Thanksgiving Day!


      1. Geannie Newell says:

        One note on the Zinsser book – I think it should be required reading for all instructors. They instruct you to write a five page paper. You write a really good, thorough paper but when all is said and done you only have four pages. The answer to the problem is to do exactly what Zinsser instructs not to do and that is to fill it with all those extra words that don’t add to the text.
        Oh the joys of being a student.


        1. Joe Linker says:

          Yes, E. B. White sums it up succinctly in Elements of Style: “omit needless words.” But which ones are the needless ones? Another useful exercise is to take the long piece, five pages or whatever, and cut it to three.


  3. dan hen says:

    I’d like to bring something to the feast but the table seems quite full already. I could bring a basket of works-in-progress which should only be tasted in short nibbles and even then might make some people retch . They are not yet ripe , so better wait on them. How about Haiku ? Have you considered spicy porn ? Biography is usually too heavy with all the other offerings. How about autobiography for an appetizer ? Haiku may be for dessert , or would it be too much after sestina ?


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Hey, Dan! Bring the basket of works in progress – perfect appetizers! Better leave off the “spicy porn”; this is a family meal (though that didn’t stop Joyce, ever the family man, in “Circe”). Let’s do autobiography for an ice-breaker? And,

      Fill bowls of haiku
      full for finger food with blank
      page books for napkins.

      PS: Maybe Ada can bring some library discards for after dinner game?


      1. dan hen says:

        Ada makes a delicious stewed essay . Puts in lots of introspection. I’ll hint to her to make some , but it takes a long time to make it so I have to see what mood she’s in.


        1. Joe Linker says:

          Ah, whole cloves of introspection.


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