Lunch With Carson McCullers
to the issue 8 page
On a chilly February afternoon in 1959, Carson McCullers, Marilyn Monroe and Isak Dinesen had lunch. The place was Carson’s rambling, white clapboard Victorian home overlooking the Hudson River in Nyack, New York. The menu was raw oysters, champagne, grapes and soufflé. And the occasion was the fulfillment of Dinesen’s dream to meet her two American idols…
As the Nyack luncheon with Dinesen and Monroe approached, Carson McCullers was both energized and panicked. Learning at the last minute that Dinesen ate only white grapes and oysters, and drank only champagne, she sent her housekeeper off in a hurried search of the requisite items.
But the anxious hostess soon discovered that she was not the only one with the jitters. “Marilyn was very timid and called me three or four times about the dress she was going to wear, and wanting to know if it should be low-cut or not,” Carson recollects in her autobiography. “I said that anything she wore would be beautiful on her.”
Finally the guests arrived. Marilyn, on the arm of her husband, Arthur Miller, looked radiant in a black dress with a plunging neckline and a fake fur collar. Dinesen was swathed in somber gray, a long fringed shawl wrapped around her head and neck.