I admit I've been remiss in updating this page. Rest assured I haven't run out books with that special something that warrants their inclusion here. On the contrary, I've been collecting like a junkie at our fabulous library bookstore. I've just been really busy. However, even though it's too big to fit on the incredible paperback rack, I thought we could all profit from the pearls of anal-retentive party giving wisdom contained in Adele Whitely Fletcher's 1963 masterpiece How to Give Successful Dinner Parties (part of the Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women). Perhaps you feel inept as a hostess (or host, but it's part of the Success Program for Women, so we're going to stick to "hostess") and don't even know where to begin planning your soiree. Perhaps you're a confident and experienced hostess who simply wants a party-planning edge on your friends. No matter where you fall on the hostess spectrum, I guarantee you will discover many new takes on party planning that had never crossed your mind in this tome. A few of my favorites:


It is a rare group that does not include, at least, one bore. He may be a self-made man with more success than he can gracefully handle. She may be a woman who talks in a slow, dull monotone and who is, to boot, loquacious. There also are the double-bores, the parents with limitless anecdotes to illustrate the superiority of their children. There also are those who come to dinner parties with an unbelievable collection of horror stories and--if they are not stopped--tell all of them.

A hostess cannot bluntly interrupt a guest. But there are ways of shortening monologues and changing the subject. A bore, of course, should never be asked questions. A single question can prolong a bore's discourse interminably. Sooner or later even bores have to pause to take a breath. When this happens a hostess should be quick to say, "John, I can't tell you how we all admire your business acumen. You not only have a great money sense, you seem also to have a gift for administering..." Then quickly changing the subject, she will grab the conversation reins from the bore, without appearing to have done this deliberately.

Unfortunately, there always seem to be those with little tolerance for liquor or with not the vaguest notion about their capacity. Ideally, of course, no liquor should be served when these people are present, but this would be unfair to all those who enjoy the relaxation cocktails can bring. However, if there are guests with alcohol problems, precautions have to be taken. The number of drinks should be limited. the cocktails served those who do not drink well have to be as mild as possible to make them without inviting protest. No one, of course, should be permitted to mix his own. And should a problem guest request an additional cocktail--problem drinkers' glasses are always emptied in short order--a host might say, "I'm going to make you a short one, if you don't mind--we're about to sit down."

Unless a problem guest has come from an earlier cocktail party or a nearby bar--always an unhappy possibility--he probably will accede to such limitations. And if he later chooses to broadcast that you are "stingy with your drinks"--as he will, undoubtedly--well, who cares?


If your children are to appear briefly at your party, it is a very good idea to remind them that they are to depart, with smiles, when they are told it is bedtime.

They should, of course, be properly bathed and brushed and dressed, if for no other reason than for the sake of their young egos as well as courtesy to your guests.

Children generally seem to behave better when they are put on their pride, told how admiring guests are of young people who say good night and--without urging, promises, or threats--retire smilingly.

A friend who has two of the best behaved and happiest children we know puts her sons on their mettle when they are having a party, going to a party, or appearing at her party. She tells them, "I'm always so happy when you go to a party (or have a party or appear at my party). For I know I will hear what well-behaved boys you are!"

Children often can be helpful in passing canapes, or showing guests where to put their wraps. And usually they enjoy doing this--it gives them a sense of importance and belonging.

However, with the passing of the canapes and showing guests where to put their wraps, their contribution to a party should end. There should be no recitations, songs, piano or violin renditions, or any other exhibitions of home talent.

Just get your work done and get out, kid! He even looks like a waiter, doesn't he? Much of the advice in this book centers around dealing with drunks, bores, people who cancel on you or those who don't RSVP, leading me to wonder if the Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women ever released any titles dealing with kicking the deadweight out of your life and making some friends worthy of your booze, food and obsessive planning? I doubt it. One of the things I like best about this book is that, for all of its uptight advice and rulemaking (many of the menus presented feature aspic salad, jellied consomme or some other hoity toity food no one wants to eat), Fletcher's got your back. She's okay with playing charades after dinner (at an informal party, of course), pushing the table aside and dancing or even hauling out the TV to watch, say, the Kentucky Derby. She even features a section on (ever so charmingly) hinting to stragglers that it's time to leave. We tend to skip the jellied goo course here at the Lounge and we have our own ways of dealing with lingering drunks, but I think Fletcher would give us an A for effort in our party-planning and execution.

Click on these links to read our first , second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth book discussions. Damn, that's a lot of cheese!

If you know of a book whose merits should be discussed here, be sure to click here and let me know!