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The Psychology of a Dying Party, or: The Elements of a Good Party

4 Feb

One of my favorite books is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.  It’s one of his shorter works, clocking in at only 228 pages as opposed to his masterpieces, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.  It’s also one of his “happier” books–though happier is a subjective term.  It’s happier than East of Eden but not a happy book.  It’s lighthearted at times, but lighthearted in the way only deeply profound insights can seem to be.

The plot doesn’t drive itself as much as it saunters and moseys easily along.  The basic plot is set in the Cannery Row district of Monterey and revolves around a cast of well-meaning bums trying to throw a party for Doc, who is the central figure of the story.  They throw one party that ends in disaster but, by the end of the book, are able to throw a party that is hugely successful.

(What does this have to do with wine?  Or anything, for that matter?  Patience.  Have another sip of your merlot.  I’m getting to it.)

As a former social chair at a fraternity and a catering assistant for almost three and a half years, I’ve seen my share of parties–both highly organized and wildly spontaneous.  I’ve seen seventy-year-olds get drunk off their minds at bar mitzvahs and what looked like seventeen-year-olds do keg stands in dark basements.  There are events complete with wine charms and little signs for different types of cheese, and others that aren’t planned as much as they arise from some primordial, yearning, post-pubescent muck.

What characterizes a good party?  And how can one ensure that the party one is throwing is a success?

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