Years ago, when applying to college, in one of my apps I came across the question, “If you could have lunch with one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?” At the time, I had absolutely no idea how to answer, which bothered me. I recall waiting until the last minute to finally jot down 200 words about how Hillary Clinton was a great role model to young women, blah blah blah. If I think about the same question now – who would I want to have lunch with – I’d like to think that I have better answers.
Helen Thomas. (journalist)
What we would talk about: What was the most difficult compromise you ever made? What are your thoughts on modern journalism and how journalism has changed? Do you think that digital media will or should replace print media? What is your opinion on Glen Greenwald? How did you manage to break the “glass ceiling” before the concept of a “glass ceiling” even became a thing? Who was the most honest president? The sassiest?
JD. Salinger. (author)
What we would talk about: Who inspired the Glass family? Does Franny ever find peace? Why did Seymour kill himself? What was the meaning of the banana fish story? What was your method when you wrote? Why did you withdraw from civilization?
Note: My grandmother passed away in 2012 at the age of 91. While in high school I slowly came to realize the value of my parents’ biographies, my grandmother left the US when I was much younger, and between a language barrier and the rarity of international phone calls during which we would have to shout to be heard, I never got to hear her story. I wish I had.
What we would talk about: Tell me your life story. What was it like to raise a family during the Cultural Revolution? Did you ever regret letting my mother move so far away? How did it feel to meet your great-grandchild? Tell me about your husband, the grandfather I never got to meet. Tell me about the best years of your life.
Hayao Miyazaki. (filmmaker/director)
What we would talk about: What kind of creature is Totoro….? You tend to write strong and complex female characters into your films – do you consider yourself a feminist? You are one of the last animators who chooses to draw their scenes rather than use CGI – what do you see as the value of hand-drawing? How are still art and animation different to you? How did you first meet Joe Hisaishi, and when did you realize you had the perfect collaboration? What do you think of Disney films?
Mstislav Rostropovich. (cellist)
What we would talk about: Nothing. I’d just listen raptly as he serenaded me on the cello. Dvorak and Elgar, please.