What a bunch! Fictional Characters at Happy Hour

Which fictional characters would you invite to sit with you at the lunch table?  The bloggers at “Broke and Bookish” asked this question in their Top Ten Tuesday meme for this week.  Click here for their blog.

This post is my answer to their question.  However, rather than inviting these fictional characters to my lunch table, I want to invite them to my next happy hour.  (I don’t eat lunch with other people, generally.  I usually scarf something down in my office in between classes.)


1.  Penelope from The Odyssey.  She waited faithfully for 20 years for her husband Odysseus to return from the Trojan war.   She knew the war was over after 10 years and she still waited patiently, even though she did not know whether he was alive or dead.  It was most likely that he was dead.   She hadn’t received so much as a Christmas card from him in all those 20 years.   She was considered a model of Good Womanhood because of her faithfulness.

I am inviting her to happy hour because I want to know the truth.  After a few drinks, I am going to ask her for the real scoop.  Was she really faithful the whole time? Really?  We wouldn’t blame her if she slipped up now and again.  Perhaps there was some cute swineherd who cleaned up well and looked pretty hot after a rub-down with olive oil.  You’re among friends, Penelope, you can talk frankly after all these years…

(I thought about inviting Odysseus, too, but he would just dominate the conversation and brag about his adventures.  We already know the story, dude.  Let someone else talk.)


Greta Scacchi as Penelope in "The Odyssey"
Greta Scacchi as Penelope in “The Odyssey”


  1. The Wife of Bath from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.   This lusty, gap-toothed wench had five husbands and lots of stories to tell about them.  In her day (before she turned the ancient age of 40), she was a hottie who knew how to charm a man into marrying her.  She was a serious talker and had some sharp insights into gender relations.  I would like to hear stories about her domestic adventures.
The Wife of Bath by Werewolff
The Wife of Bath by Werewolff

Source of picture here,


  1. Othello of Shakespeare’s Othello was also known to be a great story-teller. He had travelled widely and charmed Desdemona with his adventurous tales.  I think he would be a charismatic addition to the happy hour conversation.  I’d like to catch him before he is possessed by the green-eye monster, though.  I want to warn him against Iago and talk some sense into him about Desdemona—before it is too late!
Lawrence Fishburne as Othello in the 1995 movie version of "Othello" by Oliver Parker.
Lawrence Fishburne as Othello in the 1995 movie version of “Othello” by Oliver Parker.


  1. Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. She is witty and fun and would be full of snarky comments about everyone else at the table.  Of course, she is invited.  The only problem is that everybody else wants her at their table, too, so I don’t know if she is available.


Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett in the BBC miniseries "Pride and Prejudice"
Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett in the BBC miniseries “Pride and Prejudice”


  1. Mr. Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. I have a soft spot for him, even though he’s not a very good father.  I can identify with his desire to retreat from life to the library.  He is well-read, and I suspect he’d be a good conversationalist.  He would also, like his daughter, be full of snark, a definite plus at the dinner table.
Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Bennett in the BBC "Pride and Prejudice"
Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Bennett in the BBC “Pride and Prejudice”

6.      Hester Prynne of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.  Beneath her proper Puritan demeanor lies a passionate, artistic woman.  I’m sure she’d open up after a few glasses of wine and be the life of the party.

Demi Moore as Hester Prynne
Demi Moore as Hester Prynne


7.  Ellen Olenska of Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence.  Ellen was considered a disgrace to her upper-class New York society because she left her husband and thought about getting a divorce.  (The husband had cheated on her blatantly and clearly didn’t care about her, but that is irrelevant.)  The fact that she is disgraceful is already a good reason to invite her to happy hour.  She is also, however, sophisticated, and open-minded, with a deep appreciate for art and culture.  I would welcome her company.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Ellen Olenska in "Age of Innocence."
Michelle Pfeiffer as Ellen Olenska in “Age of Innocence.”


  1. Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald would be charming as well. More important, he would almost certainly buy all the drinks.
Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby in the 1974 movie version
Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby in the 1974 movie version


9 and 10.  What would happy hour be without some Russians? I’ll invite Anna Karenina and Vronksy as well.  They should add some passion (however wrong-headed) and intensity to the gathering.

Keira Knightly and Aaron-Taylor Johnson in the 2012 movie version of "Anna Karenina."
Keira Knightly and Aaron-Taylor Johnson in the 2012 movie version of “Anna Karenina.”


I’ll let you know how the happy hour turns out?  Who would you invite to lunch or happy hour?

The World’s Longest Weenie


I rode a snowmobile for the first time in over 30 years on a beautiful March day a few years ago. I was staying with my family in a rental cabin in the woods near Cable, Wisconsin. (By “cabin,” I mean a large home with all of the amenities of civilization—heating, plumbing, electricity, a full kitchen.) I love being in the woods. I love the trees, the sound of birds chirping, the peacefulness—as long as I can stay inside the cabin. Why go outside in the cold if I can read about the glories of nature in a book?

On this particular Saturday morning, I was curled up in front of the fire reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. This time I was determined to finish it. I was deeply worried about the fate of Russia. Napoleon was invading, and it seemed likely that he would win. He had French military might and superior reasoning on his side, after all.

I was interrupted from my pursuit by the insistent voice of my brother Curt.

“Come on, sis,” he said. “We’re going for a ride.” My brothers had rented snowmobiles for the weekend and were trying to get everyone to ride them. I was not interested.

“No thanks,” I said. “I’ll just go out for a walk later.”

“Oh, come on. We’ll just go out for a few miles, grab a beer and come back. I won’t go too fast. I promise. “

So I reluctantly put down my book and agreed to ride. I wouldn’t be driving; I’d be sitting behind Curt on the sled. I quickly learned that only outsiders like me called them “snowmobiles.” I also learned that only outsiders like me wore pink ski jackets on a sled.

“You’re wearing that?” Curt asked. “Where’s your snowmobile suit?”

“Why would I have a snowmobile suit?” I responded. “This jacket will be fine.”

He sighed in resignation. He’d given up on me having any common sense a long time ago. “You have to wear a helmet, at least,” he said and gave me one to wear.

I tried it on for size. I was tempted to rip it off again. I could barely breathe and felt cut off from the world. “I don’t want to wear this. I can’t breathe.”

“You’ll get used to it. Trust me. You’ll be glad you have it.”

I straddled the back of the sled and settled in for the ride.

Once we got going, I admitted to myself that it was actually kind of fun. The trail took us through a peaceful forest on a sunny day. The snow was thick and moist and sparkled on the cedars and firs as we passed by. Curt had lied when he said he would not go fast, but I secretly liked the thrill I got from the speed. My enjoyment of the quiet woods was marred, however, by the insistent loud buzzing noise the sleds made. We passed many groups of other snowmobilers. They all wore black snowmobile suits and helmets and emitted the same loud buzzing noise. They looked, in fact, like giant mutant snow insects. I wondered if this was what it felt like to be a mosquito. I felt even more like an insect when we hit a bump and flew through the air. I was terrified. I knew that Tolstoy considered death merely an opportunity for spiritual insight, but I wasn’t ready for such wisdom yet.

After buzzing and flying for several miles, we stopped for refreshments at the World’s Longest Weenie Roast at a resort on Lake Namakagon. I prayed that the lake was frozen enough to hold the dozens of sleds, cars, trucks and trailers gathered on it. The hordes of snowmobile suits and helmets gathered around fires drinking beer looked vaguely ominous to me—like a gathering of aliens plotting their takeover of the planet.  Is this what Napoleon’s troops looked like to the Russians?

Soon, though, I began to realize that I was the real alien. I grew up in rural Wisconsin in the middle of snowmobile culture, so this scene should have evoked feelings of familiarity, of homecoming. Instead, the longer I stayed at the Lakewoods Resort, the more culture-shocked I became. I found it difficult even to communicate simple concepts with the natives.

Everywhere I looked—on t-shirts, mittens, hats, wall-hangings–“the world’s longest weenie roast” was advertised. I was intrigued with the long weenie and wanted to know exactly how long it was. So I asked the plump, permed woman standing behind the information desk in what I thought was simple English, “How long IS the world’s longest weenie?”

She answered with a friendly smile, “The bands will be playing tonight after 5:00.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

Undeterred in my pursuit of knowledge, I walked over to a woman standing behind a table. She was selling “world’s longest weenie roast” paraphernalia, so I figured she would know the answer. I asked her, “so how long is the world’s longest weenie?”~

She answered, “Oh, you should still be able to get a hot dog. They’re selling them outside.”

I felt totally bewildered. I thought I spoke the same language as the natives, but perhaps I was mistaken. Was I so wrapped up in Tolstoy that I was inadvertently speaking Russian? Disheartened, I gave up on my quest to find out the length of the world’s longest weenie. I went into the bar and sat down in a booth for a drink with my family. A tanned blond bartender with impressive biceps walked over to take my order.

I asked her, “Could I get a pickle with my Virgin Mary?”

“Yes,” she replied. “It comes with olives.”

What? At that point, I accepted my official status as an alien. It was easier for me to understand the characters in a Russian novel than to speak to people from my home state. Surely the local dialect and culture couldn’t be that difficult to comprehend, but somehow I wasn’t able to crack the code. My years of literary study were supposed to result in spiritual insight into the human condition, right, Tolstoy? Instead I had become an alien invader in my own land. Maybe I was the world’s biggest weenie.

After arriving at this profound wisdom, I decided to order a shot of vodka and a plate of herrings.

“I’m sorry,” said the waitress. “We’re all out of cheeseburgers.”