Back when I was in college, I had a professor who let us write a paper on whatever we wanted. The only parameters were the paper had to be fifteen pages long and it had to prove that the subject impacted twentieth century American History.

I chose to write about Dorothy Parker and the impact the Algonquin Round Table had on American literature.

I found out two things. The first was the Algonquin Table didn’t have a really big impact on American literature. The second was I didn’t have enough information to fill the required pages. As I cursed myself for trying to come up with my own topic, I did whatever college kid does when faced with too little information. I changed the font. I changed the margins. I even changed the font size.

My paper was only about twelve pages long.

I don’t recall the grade on the paper; I am sure it was probably somewhere in the “C” range. I do recall the impact the Algonquin Table had on me.

I thought there was something just so wonderful about a bunch of writers getting together every day for lunch at a hotel. From 1919 to about 1926, if you were a writer in New York, then it was almost mandated you stopped by the Algonquin Hotel and sat at the “vicious circle” for lunch.

Now, what I found most frustrating about the paper was how could this circle of writers not have a bigger impact on American literature. There were people like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein all stopping by and being picked apart by Mrs. Brown (Dorothy Parker) and her companions. People with connections to the publishing and theatre world were all gathered for lunch. Yet, this group didn’t make that much of an impact?

Could it be that they really just sat there and just ate lunch and talked about each other? Instead of networking and making career connections, did this group really just enjoy a nice lunch?

I want that. I want a place where good literary writers can come together and talk about everything and nothing. I want a group of like-minded writers to come together once a day to just talk. I don’t mean a writer’s group where we just talk about our work. I want it to be a place where we just talk. I want a place where a group of writers can talk about the frustration of being a writer in a world that wants brain candy. I want to clink glasses in celebration when someone finds a home for his or her work. I want to discuss books, movies, and theatre shows. I want to know enough about someone to make witty comments about him or her.

I want an Algonquin Table.

In this world, it seems everyone is looking for his or her new connection or the big break.  The people of the Algonquin Table I am sure used their friends’ connections, but they had the decency to wait until after lunch. They actually just enjoyed being around one another and listening to the latest news and gossip.

Maybe the Algonquin Table didn’t impact the literary world as it could have if the members used the lunch as a working lunch. Instead a group of artists got together and just laughed and talked.

Perhaps we need to get back to that theory. Not everything has to be a networking connection. Let’s just take the time to make friends in our community. Friends are more likely to help other friends then someone who is just looking to “find a way in”.

I bet the members of the Algonquin Table didn’t regret the “missed opportunities” because they gained something more then another step closer on the career ladder. The members had a group of friends they could laugh and joke with. They weren’t trying to gain anything by creating this eight year lunch date other than having a place to relax among peers.

I think we all could use a place like the Algonquin Round Table.

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