This November, we have a wonderful opportunity to study Javier Marías in Valencia as hosted by Salonista Robin Tottenham. His work, A Heart So White, considers the questions around what choose not to know of our loved ones’ lives and histories– and what we imagine in the face of our ignorance. This article connects these explorations to the history of Modern Spain–with insights for us all on memory and forgetting…
Robin spotted this reflective article in the NYT magazine– some thought-provoking reflections on the novelist’s relationship to history, the ambivalence of forgetting crimes of political power, the nobility of speaking out at times, and the importance of silence at other times…and the importance of recognising differing positions on what should be told:
“Some things are so evil that it’s enough that they simply happened,” he said. “They don’t need to be given a second existence by being retold.” He took a drag on his cigarette. “That’s what I think on some days, anyway,” he went on. “Other days I think the contrary.”
“Of course, Marías is not advocating outright ignorance; he is inviting us to consider the tension that exists between memory, which can be stifling and constraining — a form of perpetuating grievance or division — and forgetting, which can be a form of liberation.”
The article also connects our coming read of A Heart So White to these reflections– especially the narrator’s resistance to learning the truth of his family’s history.
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I would recommend courses led by Toby to anyone who wants to look at a text in detail in a study group
I was certainly surprised at how much I was thrown off balance by these two astounding writers…I look forward to returning for more
We all came to the group with different backgrounds and interests but Mark has skillfully guided us through a stimulating programme of Greek literature.
I always leave the meetings with a much broader understanding of what we are reading than when I arrived
Everyone feels they get heard and therefore that each of us has a contribution to make
In all of the courses I have attended I have felt a bond within the group, and this contributes significantly to the quality of the discussions
Lovely, intimate groups with in-depth discussions, lots of learning, and friendships are made for life there
I’ve read things I’d never dared read before. I’ve made new friends and met really interesting people.
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
Toni Morrison, writer, professor and essayist on issues
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
Toni Morrison, writer, professor and essayist on issues including race, gender and forces of life, won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Beloved is regarded by many as Morrison’s best work, and once you have spent some time in the text, it is easy to understand why. Morrison works to help the reader grasp the psychological devastation wreaked by the institution of slavery by close observation of a community of ex-slaves creating lives in Ohio in the second half of the 19th century.
This text is meaty and evocative, and also quite difficult to read alone. The work also offers endless possibilities in terms of discussion of the formation of self, claiming of self, mother/child relationships, the fury of love, the permeable boundaries between the living and the not living, as well as the more predictable (but no less provocative) issues of race, gender and role of history.
But what you need to know– along with the history and context which will be provided as part of the Salon–is that the writing is so gorgeous. Morrison tackles the most painful aspects of human experience with an honesty and lyricism that will leave you breathless. If this is your first reading of the book, try not to read around too much: many reviews and commentary give away the central traumatic event that Morrison reveals carefully and purposefully in her own time. I think Morrison is very purposeful in the way she tells this story—we will discuss the framing and the narrative progression and her purpose there.
FAIRFAX: One- Meeting Salon Intensive Sunday August 18th 2:30-7:30 PM We will have an optional pot-luck meal to finish the study.
Meeting in Fairfax VA (address supplied upon registration)
Facilitated by Salon Director Toby Brothers
Cost $40.00 includes notes and critical resources *reduced cost for first-time participants*
RECOMMENDED EDITION: VINTAGE New ed. ISBN-10: 0099760118
TO REGISTER, please use the Paypal button below to pay $40.00:
Flannery O'Connor One-night study: The Displaced Person *STUDY FULL*
“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no
“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside you can give you any place… In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.”
― Flannery O’Connor , Wise Blood
The London Literary Salon had a unique opportunity earlier this summer to view the only full-length documentary on Flannery O’Connor with producer and director Bridget Kurt. The ensuing discussion was full of questions around Flannery O’Connor’s aesthetic vision: how much does her Catholicism impact her writing? And how does the contemporary reader situate themselves in a framework of faith that we may not share? How does a reader’s immersion in a vision that is framed by a particular faith widen our perspective? O’Conner famously wrote that ‘the topical is poison’ in fiction. She was more interested in exploring the inconsistencies in human souls– the grotesque corners of violence, prejudice and ignorance. She argues that her stories also offer glimpses of grace that are afforded to all people: probing this proposal in her work makes for an energised discussion.
” The Displaced Person” directly engages racism, anti-semitism and xenophobia. This is a longer short story– at 50 pages, this will give us a broader canvas to consider and discuss O’Connor’s writing and vision.
Facilitated by Toby Brothers
Wednesday evening 7-9:30 pm
One meeting Intensive August 28th 2019
Recommended edition: The Complete Stories collection by Flannery O’Connor, Faber & Faber; Main edition (2 April 2009) ; ISBN-10: 9780571245789 (Though the story can also be found on-line)
£35 for Salon Intensive includes background materials and opening notes
STUDY FULL ** Please contact us if you are interested in a similar study in the future**
To register for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £35. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration.
If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.
Flannery O’Connor is considered to be the master of the American Gothic short story form. Most readers experience discomfort reading her raw and frequently violent stories. Often set in mid-twentieth century southern United States, her stories do not flinch from portraying human hypocrisy, racism, greed and cruelty. Ironically, she is often claimed as a Catholic writer– her faith in some ways integral to her vision. O’Connor was invested in questioning the bizarre nature of humans– and how anxiously the strangeness at the centre of our being is poorly shielded by custom, charity and convention.
Writer Josh Jones (http://www.openculture.com/2019/02/why-should-we-read-flannery-oconnor-an-animated-video-makes-the-case.html) continues this inquiry:
By use of what she called “a reasonable use of the unreasonable” she shows murder, contempt, and deception as shockingly ordinary states of affairs, belying the polite fictions of civility and social niceness. Perhaps no setting could better illuminate the contrasts than the piously violent segregated mid-century American South. O’Connor’s “mastery of the grotesque,” notes the TED-Ed video by Iseult Gillespie, “and her explorations of the insularity and superstitions of the South led her to be classified as a ‘Southern Gothic’ writer.”
The label may fit superficially, but “her work pushed beyond the purely ridiculous and frightening characteristics associated with the genre to reveal the variety and nuance of human character.” O’Connor herself suggested that what set her apart were “the assumptions… of the central Christian mysteries.” Though we need not read her work this way, she grants, there is “none other by which it could have been written.” We might say that her committed belief in the idea of universal human depravity gave her unique insight into the meaninglessness of class and race distinctions. Few writers have taken the idea as seriously, or approached it with more wicked playfulness.