Lunch with the Eminent Literary Critic


bottle2The new small enthusiastic publisher has invited the eminent literary critic out for lunch. Conversation and food have gone swimmingly, helped along by a bottle of Vouvray Sec 2005 – as selected by the eminent critic. After all he has taste and culture. The small publisher doesn’t usually drink but accompanies her guest by taking half a glass. She tends to get a headache from alcohol during the day and hopes that it won’t happen this time. For desert course the critic decides on the cheese platter.

“For this I really need a port.” He leans back in his chair and waves to the young waitress.

“What sort of vintage port do you have?,” he asks with a flirtatious twinkle in his eye. The waitress goes through the list while the small publisher bites her tongue so that she doesn’t interrupt the poetic recitation with a mundane question about the price. Eventually the critic makes up his mind.

“Would you like one as well?” he asks his hostess across the table. The small publisher shakes her head silently as she is busy calculating the bill she will have to pay. It is rather a lot.


While the eminent literary critic drinks his vintage port and feasts on his Saint-Felicien, the small publisher praises the books she will soon publish and provides  brief, deep, witty, intelligent outlines of the plots. The critic finally takes the napkin from his knees, wipes his mouth and exclaims:

“I cannot wait for your books!” Once again he leans back in his chair, tilts it slightly backwards. A brief hope springs up inside the publisher. Perhaps the expense of this meal was worthwhile after all and some pre-publication publicity could be gained. Some payback at least.

“Can I quote you on our website,” she asks coyly, her eyes firmly fixed on the eminent critic’s face. She has to give it her best shot. Contentedness remains on the critics face a split second longer until the implication of the small publisher’s request has fully sunk in. Then the smile disappears and for a moment an awkward silence reigns during which the small publisher understands she has gone too far. She broadens her smile. “No, no, don’t worry. Just joking. You have to read the books of course first. I understand. ” Instantly happiness returns to the literary critic’s face and the small publisher breathes a sigh of relief. She has saved the meal from disaster. The effort was worth every penny!

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