Searching for a holiday gift for the bookish billionaire on your list? The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book catalog is out, and in addition to the $73,000 electric sports motorcycle and the $105,000 Jaguar XJL, there’s this: A dinner party for two at New York City’s famed Algonquin Hotel with actual, live literati. You choose a Monday between February and June 2010 and Neiman Marcus will arrange a meal for you and a guest with eight of “the brightest minds of modern literature, journalism, and the arts.” Your fellow diners might include satirist Christopher Buckley, cartoonist Roz Chast, Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell (above right), writer-performer Anna Deavere Smith, presidential beer buddy Henry Louis Gates Jr., sisterly wits Delia and Nora Ephron (above left), actor John Lithgow, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, TV journalist George Stephanopoulos, and his actress wife, Ali Wentworth. (Depending on the celebs’ availability on the date you select, there may be substitutions.) Not included in the package: a cheat sheet of possible conversational ice-breakers.

The price for this evening of “sparkling conversation” and “just ordinary” food (at least according to a recent restaurant review on A mere $200,000, with the proceeds going to First Book, a charity that has distributed more than 65 million new books to children in need. (The group will dedicate 10,000 books to children in the state of your choice.) Who says there’s a recession?

I’m curious. If you had a spare $200,000, would you plunk it down on one fab evening of Manhattan-centric chat in an admittedly historic setting? Assuming the dinner lasts about two hours, that works out to roughly 15 minutes with each of your A-list party guests. Sounds like fun, but not exactly a bargain — and it would definitely puts some pressure on you to hone your conversational skills to their absolute sharpest. (Personally, I’d be a wreck imagining the future Nora Ephron essay about the dullest dinner party she ever attended.) What do you think: fantasy evening or overpriced boondoggle? And who would you want in your perfect-wish-list Algonquin roundtable?

Photo credits: Ephron: Chris Hatcher/PR Photos; Gladwell: Janet Mayer/Photorazzi/PR Photos

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