I rewrote “Dinner Party” (Season 4, Episode 13 of The Office) as a pastiche of Virginia Woolf for Literary Interpretation, English 67, while a student at Pomona College. I focused on her long, deeply descriptive sentences with extensive semi-colons usage and detailed characterizations of her subjects.
“To the Condominium”
Well, there was nothing he could do about it, Jim supposed, reluctantly, annoyed at the lengths Michael had gone to for the mere sake of sharing a meal with them and frustrated at the success of his efforts; he was not excited about the premise of spending additional hours with his strange coworkers outside of the office. At the same time, he could not help but feel, deep down inside, a small sense of pleasure and satisfaction to know he and his girlfriend were so valued, and regarded so highly, by their boss; he had asked them to dinner not two, not three, but nine times—there was something to be said about feeling wanted.
Upon hearing the plans being made, Dwight asked what time he should be arriving to join the dinner party.
“Dwight, it’s couples only. And besides, I only have six wine glasses,” said Michael.
“And, Andy and Angela will come,” he added, realizing there had only been four people mentioned; while Dwight, hurt, grappled with his feelings at being excluded and viewed as subordinate, to Jim but to others as well, time and time again. He wanted their approval. He wanted it so badly that he would go to great lengths, ridiculous lengths (some might say even peculiar lengths).
They arrived at the condominium. Jim felt himself cringe inside as the door was opened; he had forgotten the unpleasant nature that radiated from Jan Levinson. She was demanding; she was rude; and, he suspected she was insane; he knew her only from the workplace, and he shuddered to think how these qualities could be exaggerated when outside of corporate’s close observation. He had not wanted this dinner to happen for many reasons.
Their greetings were pleasant enough, Pam thought, and maybe less uncomfortable than she had expected. She idly wondered when they would begin eating as she handed over a bottle of wine—it had been her idea to bring a gift for the hostess; she thought, back through her past, fondly, wistfully, of her mother, who had always reminded her of the importance of manners, the need for social graces, a quality she knew to be missing from her hostess, who confused her to no end. This will be perfect for cooking with, Jan remarked—though the beef would take another four hours, at the latest, before it was entirely ready. “Four hours from now, or four hours from when you started at maybe five o’clock?” She found it rather difficult to hide her annoyance; it was inconsiderate, it was rude! for dinner was the most important part of this evening, as far as she was concerned, because after dinner they could leave, leave the eggshell white walls, the pop art styled self-portrait, the broken glass door, the twenty-four inch plasma screen television, the video camera left on its tripod in their bedroom, and the image of Jan swaying to a song sung by her former assistant, leave and return home, and yet they were stuck here; it was dinnertime, at a dinner party, and yet there was no dinner; there was just a game of charades as the beef broiled and stewed, bubbling away.
But why will she still not admit it? Jan thought, frowning, checking on the food. She just knew that the rumor was true, that her boyfriend and Pam had been together at one time, they had dated, they had been intimate, and yet neither would confirm and give her the satisfaction of knowing, the feeling of vindication she craved. She was angry still, at the conversation they had had.
“You have no idea the physical toll three vasectomies have on a person.” Michael said, violently. (Why was he sharing this in front of his guests? Jim wondered as their argument continued, disregarding the party.) It had struck so suddenly—Dwight had arrived, to some of the group’s displeasure; he was an unusual man, they had not wanted him to join them; the argument with Jan started. He did not understand, it did not make sense the way they acted; he watched the exchange, becoming more uncomfortable and confused at how two people were together, obviously so unsuited for each other, Michael fun and childlike, Jan uptight and greedy, both miserable and lonely, both determined not to be, both failing. What was the purpose of this? Is this a functional relationship? It was impossible to say either way.
I hate my life, she said, in a mutter to herself, retreating to the kitchen.
Dinner was served. At last, it was almost over; with food on the table, leaving was soon and home felt near. The conversation stilled. Silence fell; a fork clinked on the wine glass. “That’s disgusting,” she said to Michael, “stop doing that.” This was it; he had had enough; he excused himself. He could not tolerate her comments, the constant insults and inconsiderate words grew to be overpowering. He was not going to be put down by her; why should he let her? He wanted to love her, he wanted to make it work, he wanted, so much, to have a family, and to have friends over for dinner; well, he thought, basking in the blue glow of the neon beer sign he had returned to its place on the wall, well, he at least had that.