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In her early development as a writer, McCullers returned again and again to the writers she particularly admired, among them D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, and Isak Dinesen, whose novel Out of Africa she discovered in 1937. She reread Dinesen's novels every year, and considered the Danish writer a creative idol. When Dinesen came to the United States in 1959 to address the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters, she said there were four Americans she'd like to meet: Carson McCullers, Marilyn Monroe, E. E. Cummings and Ernest Hemmingway. Dinesen and McCullers were seated next to each other at the dinner, and they were enthralled with one another. Of this dinner meeting, McCullers said: "When I met her, she was very, very frail and old but as she talked her face was lit like a candle in an old church."
After that, McCullers took it upon herself to host a luncheon where Dinesen could meet Marilyn Monroe. To McCullers, it was one of the best parties she had ever given—an infamous gathering between kindred souls. McCullers spoke of it with fondness for the rest of her life, and maintained a close friendship with Dinesen until Dinesen died in 1962.