For a writer, the problem with inviting three people you don't know to dinner is that there are so many people you are leaving out. You worry that people will judge you not by whom you decide to invite, but by whom you decide not to invite.
One of the reasons I am continuing my graduate studies in writing popular fiction is to satisfy the creative urge and intellectual curiosity within myself. The dinner guests must also be people who would appreciate hearing about this undertaking, who would understand and possibly even challenge my ideas and ambitions. The possibilities are endless
I considered Jesus, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the whole "water into wine" thing. But this seems like an obvious choice, and might be judged unimaginative by my peers. Plus, it makes the rest of the choices much more awkward. Who deserves to be at a dinner with Jesus, and yet won't pick a fight with him? And how do I go about steering him toward my educational career for our dinner conversation?
From a creative standpoint, a master artist such as Jackson Pollock might be good. I think we could talk about deconstruction, defying traditional forms, and blazing your own path. At the same time, he was known for being a loose cannon. I don't want my dinner marred by an unexpected scene.
Of course, as a writer you'd always like to talk to those who influenced you the most. I study martial arts, and the belt ranking system denotes "one who comes before." As soon as you are higher than a white belt, you are a teacher to those who are lower in the ranking system than you are. As a writer, my primary literary influence--the "black belt," if you will--was Stephen King.
Again, I face my own indecisiveness here. Sure, Stephen King is my all time favorite writer. But what about Stephen Dobyns, whose novel The Wrestler's Cruel Study combines philosophy, pro wrestling, and humor into a perfect reading mix? What about Frank McCourt, or Faulkner, or Salinger, or Hemingway? Heck, what about Don Pendleton, whose Mack Bolan series filled my teens with such bloody action joy?
And what about judgment from my peers, since writing is so subjective and there are so many divergent opinions on who is the greatest? What if people ridiculed me because I didn't pick Shakespeare, or Chaucer?
Even more dangerous, what if I found out that my heroes had clay feet? What if Edgar Allen Poe were an insufferable bore, a socially awkward nerd who couldn't carry on a conversation with a drink coaster? What if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried to seduce my wife, or Jane Austen collapsed in a hysterical mess in the corner and dessert was cold before we could eat? What if they told me to give up my dreams, or turned out to be racists, misogynists, or worse?
So, I had a list of those I could not invite, due to my own peculiar idiosyncrasies, even though they would be interesting people who would appreciate my pursuit of more writing education. But who could I invite, given that I want a predictable and entertaining party, where we can talk about writing and education but not get too serious or have the night drone on for five or six unendurable hours?
Then it hit me, as I stared at my collection of videos and DVDs. There are three people who enjoy creativity, humor, and entertainment. These are all an integral part of popular fiction, and contribute to my desire to continue learning more about the craft of writing. I also know, based on such short films as Three Sappy People and An Ache in Every Stake, that these three can really liven up a stuffy dinner. So, the three people I would invite to discuss my education are Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Shemp Howard--better known as the Three Stooges. They took their craft, but not themselves, seriously. We could talk writing until it got boring, and then we'd wing some cheesecakes at each other. What could be better?