When Will You Be Available For Me to Pick Up My Hat?

From Jerry Felsheim’s “New York Literary Tea,” part of the aborted America Eats project that was never completed by the Federal Writers’ Project, but that is thankfully collected in Mark Kurlansky’s forthcoming book, The Food of a Younger Land:

Literary teas are constantly in a state of flux. The uninitiate gravitates toward the author, the author toward the editor or publisher, the publisher toward the reviewer, and the reviewer, in desperation, toward another drink. Since the general rule of conduct is to seek out those who can do one the most good, magazine editors and big-name reviewers enjoy much popularity.

If the party happens to be given in honor of a new author, he is almost always completely ignored. In fact, there is a tradition among veteran literary tea-goers to put the young author in his place as soon as possible. They accomplish this by pretending vociferously not to know for whom the party is being given. The young author usually stands awkwardly in a corner, surrounded by a few dull old ladies, with his publisher frantically trying to circulate him among the “right” people.