Comments on Kentishtowner article: “What exactly is a Literary Salon?”
No it’s not, because Toby really does offer a road into richer enjoyment and broader understanding of the books. She facilitates this with her developed inter-personal skills and gentle leadership. I belong to an excellent book group where we read classy literature but at the Literary Salon we get. as she writes above, a much deeper opportunity to explore, to gain insights into the work(s) on offer, because of the research she has done and the materials (books, photos, print outs etc) on offer.. but especially because of Toby herself. She is a teacher. We are stretched beyond book group discussion experience – it can be a struggle eg with James Joyce, but what a worthwhile life enhancing one. My experience of the Ulysses classes became pure pleasure & my husband and I took our summer holiday in beautiful Ireland. My only problem is with the term ‘Salon’ that to a cynical British ear can seem pretentious. These ‘classes’ are not. –Carol S.
As someone who has enjoyed lots of Toby’s Salons, I’d say they are in-depth but informal, seminar-like discussions. For several hours you sit there and delve into ideas, voice your reactions, be inspired by or disagree with other people’s viewpoints — all the while, Toby guides and structures the threads of conversation with her own questions and observations. OK, it’s hard to describe, but it’s a rewarding, thought-provoking way to tackle a book (especially one as daunting as Ulysses), both reading it in on your own and then coming together with a group of interesting, like-minded people to talk it through casually, analytically. I used to come home after a Salon incredibly gratified! No question that, yes, as with a seminar, it’s worth paying for. — L. J.
It’s more like a intensive class but in a relaxed setting. The joy is grappling with difficult works with others and finding new meaning in the words (and life). I’ve done many salons with Toby and have always left energised and curious to know and read more. Toby’s gift — and it is a prodigious one — is that she guides deftly, sharing her knowledge but allowing the group to push and pull and explore on it’s own. –J. Leonard
A year after stumbling upon Toby’s salons, I can only say that they are less book club, more glittering literary seminar – clever and quirky and cool, but kind and welcoming and considerate too. They’re an adventure for any serious reader: vivid voyages into, through and beyond some of the most challenging yet rewarding pieces of world literature. Expensive? Seven to 10 quid an hour for some of the keenest, quickest thinking outside academia on, say, Ulysses or To the Lighthouse or The Sound and the Fury is a gift. PLUS the wine is gorgeous too. Join us! I. Ramsey
Being a member of the original Parisian Salon, I think that from the other responses posted here, F will have now understood what it’s all about! Certainly nothing to do with a book club, and everything to do with study. And even personal development. And a bargain at the price! D. Larking-Coste
Are there any drinks? -Martin
Salon tradition is that we all bring something to share–sometimes a full table, sometimes just coffee and tea–but some nice wines have been quaffed and when we get really creative, occasionally the offerings match the writer or the work we are studying…innards, or Burgundy for example, with Ulysses. –Toby
If I lived in London I would sign up immediately. Unfortunately I live in the U.S. Knowing Toby I can’t think of a more exciting experience than to participate in one of her Salons –Noel Brakenhoff
Is there a discounted rate for people on a low income? I don’t think studying great literature is necessarily the preserve of the middle or upper classes, but simply cannot afford the £300 for the course. –Chloe
There are a few subsidized places available on each course; please email me directly (email@example.com) to inquire about availability and details…and I whole-heartedly agree with you: the study of great literature–or anything-should be available to all–and our conversations benefit from the diversity of life experiences and perspectives. Thank you for making this point. –Toby
I’ve been in many book groups, and in many of Toby’s Paris salons.
What I feel compelled to add is that Toby has a singular gift for meeting people where they are — that alone would kick the salons out of the “expensive book club” club. Dave F., Paris
Ditto on Dave’s comment. A fab place for academic and non-academic readers to meet on an equal footing.— Lizzy