In case any of my four readers needs a conversation piece for a society novel, it strikes me that telling the story of a visit to a psychic might be the perfect device. Since the teller of the tale doesn't necessarily
believe anything the psychic said, it becomes license to assert completely deniable opinions about other people or express benchmarks, desires, expectations that would usually be considered unacceptably coercive. If the audience thinks that psychics are canny old frauds, they might be even more curious than the believers to hear about the visit, allowing the teller of the tale to monopolize even further the conversation's direction.
Yes, this happened to me recently.
Literary antecedents of interest: Hilary Mantel's recent Beyond Black
features as a main character a genuine psychic--who's not above a bit of petty chicanery if it's what the punters want. In the nineteenth-century novel category, Charlotte Brontë uses a double-reverse fake-out version of the fortune-teller-at-the-dinner-party device in Jane Eyre
. And then, of course, there's the Scottish play.
What am I missing in the literary tradition?