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Party Inferiority Complex 

If dinner parties are exemplars of anxiety in literature and movies, they nevertheless enjoy good press in the actual press--that is, in food magazines, home magazines and food sections of newspapers. In the magazines, we see pictures of very happy hosts and ecstatic guests glossily cavorting in a manner to which we would like to become accustomed.

These magazines, of course, are out to reassure us. But not totally. We can be happy, popular and relaxed like the people toasting each other around the groaning board, but it might take some purchasing. Coincidentally, the purchasing of just those products depicted in the advertisements is often just pages away.

The people, houses, kitchens in these scenes are always just a socio-economic notch above the readership demographic. (Otherwise, Architectural Digest's readership would be stuck at 1,500 stockbrokers and movie stars.) So, unlike the message of literature, the message of the magazines is that the unhappy dinner party is curable by careful applied poultices of consumerism.

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