Just before my novel Talk was first published in 1968, I had the idea for another taped book. The concept was to invite a number of ex-boyfriends over for dinner one by one, serve them each the exact same meal. I'd turn on the tape recorder the minute they came to the door of my New York apartment, and keep it running until they left. Then, I'd edit the recordings into a book, hoping, in the process, to discover What Went Wrong.
I invited — or at least considered inviting — twenty guys; in the end, twelve showed up, including a crime reporter, a radical radio personality, two sculptors, an auctioneer, and one businessman. Each encountered a different version of me. The shortest session was only seven minutes (after which the paranoid invitee fled at the sight of the microphones); the longest lasted until late the next morning. Certain things didn't play out as planned. The menu changed from homey Jewish to more classy career girl, and there may have been a little too much wife talk. One purist was disappointed that the tapes would be edited and not exposed raw; another said he'd kill me if the book were ever published.
This story is part of a series of five excerpts from the taped dinners — but not that last guy's. You can read the first installment here, the second here, the third here, and the fourth here. This is Brian.
Linda Rosenkrantz is best known for her taped novel Talk, recently republished as a New York Review Books Classic, and she is also the co-founder of the popular baby-name website nameberry.com.
Lauren Cierzan is an illustrator based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her scribblings and more can be found at laurencierzan.com.