Writers know how to party (or at least, how to write a party). That's why literature has played host to some of the most out-of-control shindigs in party history. But most hardcore readers have mixed feelings about real parties—we'd like to be invited, of course, but we'd like the option to dip out early just in case we need to go home and read. So if you're in the literary partying mood, here are some of the biggest, brightest, and best parties from books.
There are some serious advantages to fictional parties, after all. You're always invited. No one ever runs out of ice. And there's no need for awkward small talk. Instead of straining to explain your college major to a stranger over thumping house music, you can dance in a champagne fountain with Jay Gatsby. Or waltz with a sexy masked man. Or just get smashed with Thor, the Norse god of thunder.
From elegant balls to sweaty, flying house parties to hedonistic feasts, literature has every type of get-together known to man. You might even be inspired to break out the solo cups and host your very own literary-themed bash with actual, living people. So check out the wildest parties that books have to offer:
1. The Mad Hatter’s tea party
Who says you can't get messed up for your unbirthday? True, the mad tea party from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is not really a grown-up, late night affair. But it's still pretty unhinged, as far as tea parties go. Everyone has to change seats every few minutes, the laws of physics don't appear to be at work, and all the guests are utterly mad (in a fun way).
2. The Yule Ball
Harry and Ron didn't have the best time at the Yule Ball, because they were 14-year-old boys in the throes of puberty. But the rest of us would have killed for a chance to dress up and waltz in the enchanted Great Hall (and then head bang to The Weird Sisters). The Yule Ball was by far the most glamorous magical prom ever. And who wouldn't want to dance with Viktor Krum?
3. The lavish socialite parties from The House of Mirth
Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth is all about the very serious business of partying. Everybody who's anybody in high New York society around the last turn of the century has to attend frivolous house parties or else. The parties are vapid, overdone, and occasionally scandalous, with disgustingly rich food and lots of husband-finding. Sign me up.
4. The longest party ever held from The Hitchhiker’s Guide series
According to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, the Longest Party Ever Held has been going on for four generations, and it's still not showing any signs of winding down. It's also a flying party, and quite heavily armed, capable of holding entire cities at gunpoint until they fork over all their booze and cheese crackers. It's one hell of an endless, swinging alien party, and you'd better believe the Norse god Thor is in attendance.
5. Trimalchio’s dinner party
This party comes straight from the 1st century CE. The Roman satire Satyricon is a huge send-up of the rich and hedonistic, and no one throws a grossly ostentatious dinner party like the new money big shot Trimalchio. There are live birds sewn up in a dead pig, a dish for each sign of the Zodiac, and all the vulgar debauchery you could want in this somewhat nauseating dinner party (it ends with Trimalchio throwing a mock-funeral for himself).
6. The Masque of the Red Death
It's not really a party until all the guests have died of plague. In Poe's short story, "The Masque of the Red Death", a bunch of wealthy nobles are hiding out and partying hard while the countryside around them is ravaged by disease. Prince Prospero throws a seven-room ball, each room with a different color scheme, and all the guests come in outlandish costume. It would be a great party, if it wasn't for the whole pesky critique-of-society, all-the-nobles-die-horribly-at-the-end thing.
7. The balls from Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen knows how to take an awkward, formal dance and make it sound like the party of the year. Yes, all the delightful, elegant dance parties of Pride and Prejudice were secretly just marriage markets, where people flirted their way to a better social class. But they just sound like so much emotionally repressed fun.
8. Bilbo Baggin’s eleventy first birthday bash
Hobbits are hands down the most fun humanoids in Middle-Earth. Humans are busy killing each other, dwarves live underground, elves just kind of wander vaguely around the woods looking hot. But hobbits know how to party, and Bilbo's eleventy first birthday sounds like a doozy. Mead, dancing, music, fireworks — the Shire is pretty lit.
9. The Capulet’s masquerade party
Let's be real here: about 90% of everyone at any given party is hoping to magically find someone halfway decent to make out with. And to find that person at a costume party, when everyone is wearing silly hats, is doubly impressive. Add Mercutio's general instability to the equation, and Romeo and Juliet has got the best party in all of Verona.
10. Every one of Jay Gatsby’s parties
Well, of course. No one throws a Jazz Age blow-out better than the Great Gatsby himself. There's a reason that everyone and their mom is planning Gatsby-themed parties these days. Gatsby's parties were alcohol-fueled ragers, life-ruiningly fun, and dripping with wealth and flare (and it was all a metaphor about the American Dream, but it sure sounds like a good time).
Images: Warner Bros., Giphy (9), Sony Pictures Classics, United Artists