- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Willee Lewis says that if she were ever taken hostage, there's no group she would rather be among than supporters of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.
The quip was an allusion to "Bel Canto," a novel by Ann Patchett, whom the fiction-supporting group's D.C. chapter honored Thursday night at a small cocktail benefit at C. Boyden Gray's Georgetown home.
Like most of the 75 extremely well-read guests, Mrs. Lewis is a major fan of the best-selling opera-savvy novel, which fictionalizes the 1996 capture by Peruvian terrorists of the Japanese Embassy in Lima.
"You're all welcome to stay as long as you want. We have duct tape and plastic," joked Mr. Gray, White House counsel in the first Bush administration, as guests gathered in his spacious ballroom to mingle and chat amid artwork that included a pre-Raphaelite scene from "The Twelfth Night" and two early 18th-century paintings of papal consistories.
"I was so sure this party was going to be called off," Miss Patchett said with reference to the invasion of Iraq having begun less than 24 hours before.
"It's ironic to be bombing Baghdad as we speak, chasing al Qaeda through Afghanistan and honoring a book about terrorism," said Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican.
Even with the war getting under way, life in the nation's capital including parties and politics continues. Mr. Foley was soon alerted that he had to rush back to the Capitol to vote on the budget. That left Lucky Roosevelt, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, Susan Stamberg, Lucinda Robb, E. Barrett Prettyman, Calvin and Jane Cafritz, Carmen and Hal Petrowitz, Ruth Noble Groom and other literati to enjoy the buffet and bookish chat.
"It's the best book I read that year," Miss Stamberg said of "Bel Canto," which earned Miss Patchett the 2002 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction.
Other guests noted that the novel is being adapted into both a movie and an opera.
Scott Galupo

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