Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed, tells, amongst other things, about the dinner held by FSG for its three finalists for the National Book Critics Circle award: Batuman herself, Jonathan Franzen and Damion Searls. (Searls translated Comedy in a Minor Key by the 101-year-old Dutch novelist Hans Keilson, who was not in attendance.)
I had fun reading it, so I decided to share it.
Here's an excerpt:
"I wish we had some weed," he remarked, initiating a discussion of who at the dinner would be likely to have weed. Our money was on Franzen. I had been looking forward to meeting Franzen, though not without some apprehension. The thing is that nobody becomes a writer because of his or her tremendous ease with social interactions and the spontaneity of the spoken word. What are you going to say to someone like that? Especially if you are someone like that? Things started out innocuously enough. "I'm a huge fan!" I exclaimed. "Right back at you," Franzen replied, explaining that he had bought my book as a Christmas present for multiple people, though he hadn't yet read it himself. "But I've read parts of it!" I told him that I had loved Freedom, which is true and would have been a great ending point for our exchange. So it's difficult to articulate what possessed me, at a later, boozier point in the dinner, to ask Franzen whether he had any weed. In part, I was curious whether he had any. And in part, despite severe fatigue and a mild constitutional dislike of weed, I felt somehow unable not to pursue momentary contact with a half-glimpsed parallel world in which the evening continued in this really different, really mellow way. "Wheat?" Franzen's agent repeated, frowning. "Why would you need wheat?" "Not wheat – weed." She stared at me blankly. "Weed," my agent repeated. "There's some in my freezer," Franzen said. "But it's all the way uptown."