There is a sound made by a room full of people at a party. It’s a radio between stations with a stretch and pop and one voice coming into focus and certain stories turning up like bingo balls from the collective burble. I love this sound.
I throw parties for The Paris Review. That’s not what it says on my business card, and I certainly have other duties, but this is one of them. There are equations for judging provisions for a party. The average person drinks x number of drinks, times x number of people divided by glasses in a bottle, bottles in a case, et cetera, et cetera. I sometimes use these equations. I sometimes consult my old receipts, my faithful notes, but there is no keener pleasure or sharper anxiety than standing at the wine shop, bottles of merlot, burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, and Beaujolais in every direction, while trying to picture the crowd, the party, the temperature that day, and the humidity, what they will be wearing, the news that might buoy or sadden them—the mood of three hundred people who, not all at once, but over the course of the night, will be drinking this wine and think—no—feel, the two cases of white (the Sancerre), two of red (the Médoc), a half case of the crémant.
I have grocery lists, too, of course. It would be easy to send an intern to the shop with a list—they are as a rule very capable, too bright for easy errands and yet cheerful when sent on them. But how could I know in advance to tell them to get just a few of those stupidly expensive oranges straight from Italy, still packed in their leaves, which I did not know would be there until I saw them, and which will light up the windowsill and tempt the photographer to take a picture before the density of the crowd makes such a shot impossible.
In other words, I get the flowers myself. I always do. Read More