Reader Interview: Dinner Conversation

Dinner Guest?
Dinner Guest?
You can have dinner with any one person in history. Language will be no barrier, you’ll be guaranteed to survive the meal unscathed, and you can ask anything you want and the person you’re having dinner with will tell you the absolute, full truth.

Who would you invite to dinner, and what would be the one question you would absolutely ask?

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127 responses to “Reader Interview: Dinner Conversation”

  1. Sawyer Grey Avatar

    Napoleon Bonaparte. I’d like to ask him whether he secretly ordered the execution of the Duke D’Enghien, or if it was Talleyrand acting on his own.

  2. ChaosCoyote Avatar

    I’d find the author of the Voynich manuscript. And my question would be, “Translate this for me … ?”

  3. Faith Peregrine Avatar
    Faith Peregrine

    My choice is connected to the local history of the town I live in.

    In 1897 archeologists discovered the remains of a grave dated back to the 7th century before Christ. Cremation was common at the time, so there was not much left except the remains of a chariot/carriage.
    This is a unique found in the Netherlands and indicates the owner was a wealthy man.

    I would like to visit the owner of this chariot/carriage and ask him about his life, society, religion and, the most important question, how he managed to acquire this carriage.

    1. Amazingrace Avatar

      Could he have been a member of the Celtic – or what eventually became known as the Celtic peoples, who have arrived in your home area during their advance west, having been moved out of their central Europe homespace by invaders from the east or north east? Possibly by invaders from the Mongolian slopes?
      It would be very interesting to find out. where is Dr Who and his Tardis when you need him?

  4. Abby Avatar

    Adolf Hitler, I just think there are so many things that you could ask him. Why? being the most obvious, but how did he convince so many others? Why did people follow him? Find out if he was mentally stable… Although I don’t like what happened, was what happened really his idea or was his vision distorted? Just think what you could learn from him.

    1. Megan Avatar

      I like that you’re willing to speak with a person that is generally thought of as one of the worst people in history. I think it’s incredibly important to understand evil. I’ve spoken with many criminals, and always found their point of view mind-blowing – regardless of my own personal opinions.

    2. Amazingrace Avatar

      When you consider, given that Hitler was so absolutely against the Jews, what would hav happened in his life if his Jewish father had NOT deserted him and his mother. would he have grown up ‘normal’ and balanced, and a positive influence on his country folk? And what is ‘normal’ anyway? The Norse Vikings considered themselves to be normal, yet who would welcome the sight of them in full armour approaching our home? [Unless, of course, they were our knsmen being our food supply.] To be able to sit at a – well protected – round table with Hiltler and Eric the Red for a discussion of world history (as they knew it) would be indeed fascinating!

  5. Wyldkat Avatar

    I have a toss up.

    Philosopher, writer and inventor Benjamin Franklin.
    How does America today compare to the dream of the 1780’s? How bad have we messed it up? What can we do to bring it back on course?

    Charles Edward Steward.
    Why didn’t you ever come back? If you had the chance, what would you do different, besides the obvious of avoiding Culloden?

  6. Susan Avatar

    Going literary, I would have to say Geoffrey Chaucer. I would want to know about the Canterbury Tales. I remember reading them in high school and being so entertained by them…but it was left unfinished or felt like it. (I realize there’s a debate about this, if they were finished or not), but I recall wanting to hear the remainder of the tales and unable to do so because he never finished them prior to his death.

  7. wednesday Avatar

    I’d have dinner with my ancestor who left Wales for Nova Scotia. I’d ask him if he wanted to go back. If so, I’d beg the use of your time machine to send him back, so I could be living in Wales today–a few hours’ train ride to anywhere in Britain, and most especially from the British Library’s Reading Room. (I have to ask: how many story ideas are you getting from these answers, Holly? )

    1. Texanne Avatar

      I understand about your feeling out of place, but wonder if you’re not allowed to move to Wales?
      Oh, yes. Lots of stories. And you should see the one about “what was the riskiest thing you ever did?” Here:

  8. Charles Avatar

    I get the full truth?
    I walk away unscathed?
    Subject: Jesse James
    Question: Where did you hide all that money?

  9. Penny Ash Avatar
    Penny Ash

    Had a time coming up with just one person but that would have to be Mac Brazel. If you recognize the name you’ll know why. The question would have to be what really happened in the late summer of 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico?

    The runner-ups were Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid

  10. SirOtter Avatar

    Giaocomo Puccini, so I could ask him how he would have finished his opera, Turandot, had he lived long enough. Does Calaf live? Does he marry the princess? And what is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

    1. John Makin Avatar

      And what he thought of the ending we have today! I says so much for the genius of the man that an opera that he left unfinished is so well loved today.

  11. John Makin Avatar

    I would love to sit down with Rudyard Kipling. He has been a hero of mine since I was 10 years old.
    There is so much that I would love to discuss with him, from his views of the British Empire and its effects on the nations and peoples absorbed by it, how he wrote his novels and his glorious poetry, what he thinks of the world we have today and how so many great qualities that he wrote about have survived today. Are they still in evidence or has today’s society watered them down.
    That would be such a dinner it would last a fortnight!

    1. Judith Avatar

      I can answer part of that. Yes, sterling qualities still exist in some people and not in a watered down version. I had a book club meeting at my house yesterday and we discussed “Kim”. I wore the sari I bought in Lahore and served Punjabi snacks. I have had a lot of ‘interesting’ experiences end a widespread knowledge of a great many people from different nationalities. There are still people who demonstrate honour, bravery and nobility of spirit.

  12. Juneta Avatar

    That is an interesting question. I always have trouble when ask things like that, or who do admire. I am impressed by a lot of people, and yet jaded by all at the same time. I am highly interested in a lot of historical people, but to have dinner with one, as in, get to know you… I don’t know. In some ways, I am too disillusioned with the human race, people personally, and history as a whole, but I recognize that is not realistic, nor a reality, because we are the human condition, and its all part of living life. I lost faith in some ways with the human race after my child illusions were forced into growing up, and the living of life happened.

    However, I also really like people. I love seeing their potentials and possibilities. I love the IDEA of what they can and could be, because it is in all of us. We have changed the world. We are living the future, science fiction, and all the stories ever told, even if they are glittered over for affect.

    I think I would want to sit down with three people. Joseph Campbell who set a standard of viewing and perceiving the way myth and the mythological affects and shapes people as the human race, and writing. The other person is living, and based his book and theories a lot on Joseph Campbell. He is a very successful writer and consultant in the movie industry. He wrote my favorite of all time writing books, “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler. The third person is also living, George Lucas, who created Star Wars. He also was a huge fan, knew Campbell, and talked and consulted him about his creation Star Wars, when he was living. So to stick to the question, after saying all that….

    I would sit down to dinner with Joseph Campbell. I would ask what started you on your search into Myth? Why? Were you seeking the answer to the age ole question, what is the meaning of life, and why? Were you seeking to find out if there is a God or not? Or would you just fascinated with the subject matter mythology? I personally find the man’s theories fascinating, and so much truth in the knowledge he conveys. There is so much there for the writer, and for the living of life itself. He was a writer, researcher and theologian of sorts, in my opinion.

    His theories have made me hope, and to view the world with less disappointment. All three of the people I named make me hope, and believe in people, myth, and the reasons why again… It is personal journey, a psychological journey and understanding of why we do the things we do, and how the world, myth and history affect and shape us. We would not be without myth, and we are the living science fiction of the past. We are our history, and we are the future. The human race, the world is amazing, and see what we have done, and watch what we will do. We are the stories.

    I also would ask how he thinks this shapes us as individuals, and does he believe we can all make a difference in our little individual worlds? I think the answer is yes, but I would love to his take on life, people and myth personally. He is a very interesting man, especially in the realm of writing, and understanding life and people. The interviews I have watch, I think he looks happy, he enjoys people, and he has fun with life and what he did. He has made a huge difference in my outlook, and the way I view and interact in the world today.

    So for people I never knew, and that I have admiration for he would be my pick. I would invite him to dinner.


    1. Juneta Avatar

      I realized after posting this that I take the question of who to invite to dinner, very personally, lol. Who I invite into my home, I guess, took top priority in a way, over the asking of the question, lol, which was really the main point. Not that I would change my answer, just I thought it funny the tone I answered it in, compared to everyone else.

  13. Rachel Avatar

    I think I’d want to sit down with JRR Tolkien, because he’s the epitome of who I want to be. He’s known for his writing, but he was also a highly successful linguist and a graduate of the University of Oxford. I’m not sure exactly what I’d ask him; I’d mostly just like to talk to him. Maybe I’d ask for tips about how to write amazing fantasy stories or for a lesson in Finnish.:)

  14. Nicole Avatar

    Oh dear… I’m a bit of a history buff, and my particular interest is Roman history… So it’d probably be Julius Caesar and “What were your plans when you became Dictator?”

  15. John Melka Avatar
    John Melka

    I would like to have dinner with a really advanced alien scientist. Now this assumes we could communicate, which means we would have to have some common language referents (sorry Star Trek) and could exist in a compatable or at least accessable environment (imagine a Vorlon). The questions to ask? Two. First, what mistakes did you make? Second, how did you survive them? I often imagine that dinner with the captain (of a space vessel) is two vessels in space with a beam of light connecting them so each can telepresence to the other 🙂

  16. Claudsy Avatar

    Such excellent questions and dinner partners. For me, I’d like to sit down with Mother Teresa. I would ask her if she ever contemplated what she would have instituted had she been made Pontiff and what changes within the church she would have made had she taken the seat.

    I’m not even Catholic and wonder at the difference that one change could have made.

  17. Meli Harper Avatar

    Ohhhh, gosh. Too hard to pick. Probably because I have so many historical crushes, and I’d want to go on a date with every single one of them.

    … I think I would pick John Keats. Not so much because I’d want to ask him anything in particular, but because I’d want to tell him something. Have you ever seen that Doctor Who episode with Vincent van Gogh, where the Doctor takes Vincent, right before he dies, and shows him his own exhibit in the art museum? Keats thought his words were writ in water and no one would ever remember them. I’d just like to tell him… that he’s amazing.

  18. Kathryn Carson Avatar
    Kathryn Carson

    Shakespeare, for two reasons:

    1) If he was actually the grain merchant from Stratford-upon-Avon, I want to know how an imagination that prodigious and a drive that strong work together…and what his wife thought of him.

    2) If he was actually the 7th Earl of Oxford, I want to know how a talent that huge manages to hide in plain sight of the caste that would’ve disowned him.

    And, well, a third reason, I suppose: if he was anyone other than those two possibilities, how in bloody blue blazes did he hide it that well??? 🙂

  19. Toni Murphy Avatar
    Toni Murphy

    I would invite Theodosia Burr Alston. Of course, my first question would be “What happened to you all those years ago when set sail off the coast of South Carolina? Did you really perish in a storm as you traveled to meet your father, Aaron Burr? Or were your really escaping from a marriage full of tragedy?

  20. Ad Avatar

    I’d like to have a conversation with Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian ruler who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’d ask him about his opinion on the way people perceive him today because of the book. If he’d be upset, angry or proud. I’d also ask him about the truth about his death, where did he really die and what castle he liked more. I’d ask him if he thought he could bring Romania today into public attenttion and about the decisions he’d make if he was the ruler today. It would be an enlightening conversation.
    Ps: I’m Romanian. So my obsesion with Vlad the Impaler should be explained now.

    1. SirOtter Avatar

      I thought of Vlad, too. I’m planning on being in Romania late next year. If I run into him, I’ll ask him your question and let you know what he says. 😉

      1. Ad Avatar

        I’ll do the same if I see him first, which is quite possible as I’m planning to take a tour of my entire country this summer. I think you’ll have a good time in Romania.

  21. Gary Henderson Avatar

    Carl Sagan. Because, honestly, I’d just like to talk to the man. He was absolutely fascinating, and his book The Demon-Haunted World…”changed my life” sounds melodramatic, but it did (and wasn’t). 🙂

    Since neither he nor I believe(d) in an afterlife, I’d ask him what he thinks are the chances of discovering evidence of alien life in my lifetime now that we know of nearly 800 planets beyond our own solar system and are discovering more every day.

  22. Ivye Avatar

    Oh dear, I’m really torn. What do I want more – to ask Christopher Marlowe about the elusive Trasimene tragedy that is (possibly) mentioned in the Tamburlaine Prologue, or to ask Hannibal Barca just when did he realize he wasn’t going to take Rome, after all?

  23. Jim Miller Avatar

    Snoopy. We’d have lunch together at the Doghouse Restaurant, Duncan, BC. I’d ask him if he had ever gotten past, ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’.

    1. Joanna Avatar

      Rats! I didn’t know we could do fictional characters! In that case, I’d have dinner with Composer Winslow Leach (after the ….reconstructive surgery.) and ask him, “If you had it to do over again, what parts would you change…in order to avoid the rest of what happened?” Then again, if he didn’t do what he did, other fictional songwriters would have been abused by the same creep he ended up being messed over by. (Swan). Then I’d say “THANKS.”

  24. Ivye Avatar

    Oh dear, I’m really torn. What do I want more? To ask Christopher Marlowe the (possibly) lost Trasimene tragedy, or Hannibal Barca when did he realize he wouldn’t take Rome, after all?

    1. Ron Avatar

      Catharine the Great.
      A horse? Really?

      The Author of the Book of Revealtions

      Is this symbolism, prophecy or some really bad weed?

      1. Holly Avatar

        Weed, I think.

        1. sallie Avatar

          Nyah. Soma. Weed’s generally (i say generally here) not particularly hallucinogenic. Soma is. And was in use at the time.

      2. Joanna Avatar


        Just in case you don’t have that dinner with the Apostle John, (Who wrote Revelation ~ or ~ The REVELATION of JESUS CHRIST) The key to reading a book like that is to know that the SYMBOLISM comes in with phrases such as “Like unto” or LIKE…the closest comparison he could come up with, in relation to the vision he was given, in relation to Future events.

        I’ve read it over a few times, just READING it. You kind figure out the REAL from SYMBOLIC by the context. Rev 13 talks about a Beast out of the sea. But then there was another beast, which spoke with the authority of the first beast. These won’t be actual talking animals like Godzilla, but referring more to the CHARACTER of the men who will manipulate nations. The guys, themselves, might be drop dead gorgeous, to look at them, but their intentions will be anything BUT pleasant. The other stuff…. locusts and water turning to blood… Like to see Al Gore explain that!

        1. Joanna Avatar

          And, yeah, I know…. Godzilla didn’t talk, but I was wondering if you were thinking along those lines… Talking beasts. In that sense, the beast is more in personality than looks.

          1. out Avatar

            Mr. Ed was a talking beast.

  25. Stephanie Avatar

    I would invite the guy that all the King Arthur stories are based on, and I’d ask him what really happened.

    Or King Alfred the Great. I’d ask him what his vision for England was, and how close he actually got to his goal.

    1. Amazingrace Avatar

      What’s the bet that Arthur’s reality is radically different to our movies?
      Wonder what Merlin would say?
      Given Albert Einstein’s revolation that all matrter is a mass of moving electrons, Merlin’s implantation of a sword in a rock for Arthur to withdraw is a plausabiity1

  26. Dana Avatar

    I’m struggling to decide between two people here. I love history, and two of my favorite historical people come to mind with this question. The first one being Henry VIII and I think I would ask him what his true motives were for going through all of his wives. So many things happened because of his decisions concerning them and it would be interesting to know how much was religious/political/personal. The other person I have in mind is Martha Carrier. She was the only female hung during the Salem witch trials that never “admitted” to being a witch and she was also probably one of the most despised women accused. I would ask her what was really going on in Salem (assuming she has the knowledge of that after death) to lead to such tragedy.

    1. Holly Avatar

      If you ever get to go to dinner with Martha, tell me what she says. I’d be fascinated by her story.

  27. Susan Avatar

    Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel. I’d ask them if I could borrow their copy of Abraham the Mage’s book, or better still, if I could have the translated notes they used to create the philospher’s stone.

  28. Lila Avatar

    If I asked Noah to dinner, I’d have so many questions like: where’d you park the boat and howcome a raven first, so I’d probably invite someone easier like my great grandmother Gertrude and I’d ask her, “Where in the heck was Warshive, Russia?” I’m pretty sure this would all be happening over a plate of sauerkraut and sausage and a disc of fried bread with salt and Karo syrup. We knew all about those key taste combinations: savory, salty, sour, sweet.

  29. John Barrass Avatar
    John Barrass

    Abraham Lincoln.
    I would ask him if he actually wrote the ‘Mrs Bixby letter’

    1. Texanne Avatar

      My sister was here for a couple of hours. So happens she’s reading a book about Lincoln, so naturally we had to get online and see if we could find the name of the Ohio senator that was deported by Lincoln. We did.

      If that offer of a Lasso of Truth still holds, there are a lot of questions to ask Mr. Lincoln.

      But I’d still pick Ben Franklin. So much creativity! In so many directions. How did he develop that? Where did all those questions come from? And the wit! Lincoln would only depress me and make me angry. Franklin is the guy!

  30. Texanne Avatar

    Ben Franklin, of course. We would eat turkey and flirt and dance and talk and have a high old time. From what I’ve read, he would be the world’s best date.:)TX

  31. Tami Avatar

    I would love to talk to George Washington and ask him how he would handle government if he was the president now.

  32. Brenda Hammond Avatar

    I’d invite Anna Pavlova because the heroine of my novel ‘Cape Town’ has to write a biography of this famous dancer.

    What I’d love to know is how she felt about her travels and what gave her the impetus to bring the beauty of the Russian ballet to far flung countries.

  33. Sheryl Avatar

    Jesus- I’d have all kinds of spiritual questions and would love to hear his take on many modern issues within the church today and the world.

  34. John Malik Avatar

    Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Soldier, writer, botanist, explorer and prolific note-taker. What tales he must have been able to tell. “Mr. Lewis, what was the most memorable experience on your two year journey?”

  35. Marti Verlander Avatar

    I’d have dinner with God, and I’d have lots of questions for him! Perhaps the most important question would be, “Do humans and their beloved pets get to be in the same heaven, so they can still be together, or do the pets have a place of their own?”

  36. Sarah Avatar

    Hmmm . . . Marie Antoinette. And I would ask her “What is your position on poverty in France?” I just want to know what she’d be like.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Think she might have changed her “Let them eat cake” answer? 😀

      1. Texanne Avatar

        Marie Antoinette got a bad rap from rivals and the media, and in all likelihood never utter that line about cake. Her big crime was being Austrian. I can only see her as a tragic figure, a sacrifice made to the crazy notions first of royalty and then of mob rule. I’ll still take Ben Franklin, though, as my dinner date. :)TX

        I believe that it is now a crime to eat, make, or sell cake, anyway, at least in some cities.

    2. Lee Avatar

      She would be a great choice for a dinner guest, Sarah. Especially since what most people “know” about her are the libelous fictions spread by her enemies because she was “foreign” and born of royal blood. Horrors. I’d like to have dinner with her, too. 🙂

  37. William Avatar

    I’d like to talk to Kurt Vonnegut. I would ask him if Death has changed his perspective. If so, how? Finally, would he recommend a timely death or something unexpected?

  38. Von Avatar

    I would like to sit down with Peter Jennings. Rumour has it that he was not formally schooled yet he had a wealth of knowledge about the world, politics, music and newsworthy items. He possessed an innate intelligence and curiosity in addition to being charming, elegant and humourous.

  39. L_Brinkley Avatar

    My answer some may consider on the morbid side. One name rang to the top of my head, and this is on the supposition that he would indeed answer my question. Have you ever wanted to sit down with someone you hate or just intensly dislike? I would sit down with Adolph Hitler and ask why he did to the jews what he did, his real reason. I would also want to know if he regretted his actions and sought repentance before he died.

    1. Jamie Avatar

      Hitler was my answer, too! I want to know if he seemed normal. It fascinates me that someone so psychologically unhinged- with such a nasty philosophy- could have romanced the minds of an entire nation. Is he intelligent? Boring? Creepy? Certainly might help us to spot the whackos in modern politics, no? LOL

  40. Al Lustie Avatar

    I would invite Seth Godin, a modern day guru re marketing, ethics, pragmatism and idealism. I would ask, “What would you do if you worked for someone who was not-so-slowly becoming mentally ill and whose behavior was jeopardizing both the outfit for whom you worked and your own career?”

  41. Dave Avatar

    Jesus Christ. I’d ask Him what books, philosophies and organizations that have come into existence after the last book of the Bible was written would be closest to what He wants to see out of humanity, and why. There is no one in history who has had more impact on the whole of humanity, so I figure if you have the chance to take out 2,000 years of middlemen, then you should.

  42. Ros Fishman Avatar
    Ros Fishman

    It would have to be Alexander the Great – the only person in the history of history to have conquered the known world! And the question? What’s it like to ride an elephant?

    1. Holly Avatar

      And I’m left wondering about the horse…

    2. Laughing Collie Avatar

      You’ll be less jolted around riding an elephant than you would be when riding a camel — they call camels “ships of the desert” for a reason. 🙂

  43. Dean Kutzler Avatar

    In the email, you said time machine… I am going into the future. I want to ask Yolanda Vega (if that’s who still reads those ping pong balls) and ask her for the winning numbers so I can be free to write all day long!

    1. Jamie Avatar

      You win this comment thread. 🙂

      1. Dean Kutzler Avatar

        Tee hee! I totally wish I had my adult knowledge know, back when I was young and care free (and Momma paid the bills)! I would write to the end of all days!

  44. luzuko Avatar

    im a 15 year old student and i want to write a thrilling novrl,how do i start my first line?

    1. luzuko Avatar

      i would really love to hear it from the profesional

      1. Holly Avatar

        😀 You don’t start with the first line. You start with a conflict. Someone who wants or needs or wants to prevent something, versus the person or thing keeping him from getting what he wants.

        I’ll save you some time, though. I have a TON of free writing articles on this site. If you seriously want to write, spend a few hours reading them.

        1. wednesday Avatar

          I just submitted your my-articles webpage to Stumble, so if you start getting more than a few hits, that may be why. I can’t believe it wasn’t already on Stumble. 😉

  45. Adam Avatar

    Without a doubt Jesus Christ. I would ask him if he really is the son of God. I have no doubt a Jesus lived, but I want to know if that Jesus was who we think he was.

  46. Judith Field Avatar

    I’d invite Adolf Hitler, and poison him. I’d ask him how he felt to have been outdone by one of the people he despised. That’s mean I’d probably find my extended family and their descendents appearing with a pop like bubbles bursting in reverse, and I’d ask them their names. Because right now, that’s what I don’t know.

    Sorry I cheated!

    1. Dean Kutzler Avatar

      Wow.. The story ideas that are popping up from this post!! Just think: How would the world be different without Hitler??

  47. Pat Harris Avatar

    Eve. As in ‘Adam and. . .’ I’d ask her how it REALLY happened.

    1. Susan Avatar

      I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that dining room!

      1. Eileen Avatar

        All ‘rib’bing aside!
        Me too.

  48. Anna Avatar

    Queen Elizabeth I. How did she survive, get so well educated, make her way through all the political shenanigans, rule so well, become beloved.

  49. Michelle Avatar

    Arg, so many choices. That, and any question I think I’d want to ask sounds petty, knowing what a lot of my favorite historical icons went through.

    I guess, I’ll say Shakespeare, and obviously there’s a bunch of stuff I would ask him. Did you really write those plays? 🙂

    But the one question I would have to ask him, before anything else, is which of his own plays or sonnets did he consider his greatest work.

  50. Emerald Avatar

    I’d pick the greatest scientist from an advanced alien civilisation and ask them to give me the designs for all their coolest technology. Then use it to convince the world I am a God.

    Because you never said it had to be from human history…

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