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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.
Latest from the blog
Type Of Study:
One Off Event
T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never
T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
–From ‘Burnt Norton’
T.S. Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’ is often described as the best long poem of the 20th century. Eliot’s vast final work attempted to order and understand the movement of time, the dissatisfaction of worldly experience, the nature of purgation and the struggle towards artistic wholeness and spiritual health (modified from C.K. Stead). In the poem, Eliot weaves belief systems and diverse influences including Dante, The Bhagavad Gita, The Eightfold Path of Buddhism, the New Testament, medieval mystics, Greek myths and the Grail Legend: so our study will also involve comparing wisdom traditions.
I will provide each participant with pages of annotations and reference reading (gratefully donated by Mike McGarry, fellow educator and philosopher)—but as always with the Salon work, the focus is on the text itself. In previous Salons, we have found our way to thoughtful considerations of various belief systems in a respectful atmosphere; this study will open up space for such considerations using the poem as a spring board. What we believe—as individuals, as cultures—addresses how we live and how we try to invest our lives with meaning. Eliot is taking on these elemental questions through his Anglo-Catholic faith but drawing into this perspective wisdom across time and beliefs.
- Facilitated by Toby Brothers
- Tuesday evenings 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
- Four meetings over five weeks (no meeting November 12th)
- Meetings in Kentish Town
- T.S. Eliot’s Collected Poems 1909-62 (Faber & Faber; ISBN-13: 978-0571105489).
- £95 for the four sessions
TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £95. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration. The study is limited to 11 participants. Please contact us if you have any questions.
Christopher Guerin, writing in the on-line magazine ‘When Falls the Coliseum’, describes his pleasure in the poem:
“Though I first studied the poem in college — emphasis on “studied”, which doesn’t always mean “experience” or “appreciate” — my firstencounter with Four Quartets took place while being chased by fierce thunderstorms across Interstate 70 in Kansas in the early evening. (I learned the next day that I had been surrounded by tornados!) I had put in a cassette recording I’d made off an LP of Four Quartets being read by Sir Alec Guinness.
No, the incredible impression the poem made on me at the time had nothing to do with Obi Wan Kenobi. Guinness’ delivery, though, seems the perfect voice for this poem, much more earnest and spiritually aware than Eliot’s own weary, almost defeated delivery. (The recording is hard to find, but well worth the search. Highly recommended.)
From the beginning, I was captivated by the cadence, the imagery, and the playful, seeking nature of the words. It’s impossible to quote anything less than the whole of the first section…”
Which he does—and you can read the rest of his commentary and selections of the poem here.
We will consider each Quartet in one meeting– reflecting on the other sections as they expand and invigorate the one in front of us. The facilitated discussion will use the text of the poem as a springboard for our conversation; participant questions, responses and ideas are welcomed to help navigate the challenges of the work. There is no expectation of previous study or work with the poem nor in the academic tradition: this study will challenge and invigorate the first time reader as well as the life-long lover of T.S. Eliot’s extraordinary vision.
The poem can be found in T.S. Eliot’s Collected Poems 1909-62 (Faber & Faber; ISBN-13: 978-0571105489).
The London Lit Salon Book Club is a monthly book discussion group in South London that reads the finest 20th and 21st
The London Lit Salon Book Club is a monthly book discussion group in South London that reads the finest 20th and 21st century literature from around the world (with the occasional classic thrown in the mix for good measure).
The Book Club’s monthly schedule offers the same serious discussion and professional facilitation as the Salon’s other studies, while providing the opportunity to explore a world of literature for which we might not offer one of our multi-week, in-depth studies. Like all books we read at the Lit Salon, the book club selections speak to basic and enduring questions of what it means to be human.
The Lit Salon Book Club meets on Sunday evenings from 6:30pm – 8:30pm in the comfortable West Norwood (SE27) bungalow of our discussion facilitator Mark Cwik. Meetings for 2018/19 are scheduled for:
07 October 2018– William Trevor’s Two Lives: Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria.
18 November 2018 — Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight
06 January 2019 — Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights
03 February 2019 — Sjón’s The Blue Fox
03 March 2019 — Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses
07 April 2019 — Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
28 April 2019 — Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
26 May 2019 — Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance
28 July 2019 — Bridget Collins’ The Binding
08 September 2019 — Tessa Hadley’s Late in the Day
03 November 2019 — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah
01 December 2019 — TBA
Our book for 03 November will be Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chicago Tribune‘s Heartland Award, was shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year.
Eugenia Williamson in the Boston Globe says: “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a scintillating, funny, and heartfelt novel, not least because of Ifemelu, a Nigerian transplant whose 13-year tenure as a resident of the United States has come to an end. She is a complex and unforgettable character . . . The journeys of these characters, their brush-ups with race, class, politics, literature, family on three continents result in a cerebral and utterly transfixing epic . . . Among its many strengths, Americanah is superlative at making clear just how isolating it can be to live far away from home. . .”
And, Michael Peed of the New York Times Sunday Book Review writes: “Adichie is an extraordinarily self-aware thinker and writer, possessing the ability to lambaste society without sneering or patronizing or polemicizing. For her, it seems no great feat to balance high-literary intentions with broad social critique. . .”
Registration for the Lit Salon Book Club is in six-month subscriptions of £90. You can also try us out with a one-month payment of £15. See below for payment options.
SPECIAL OFFER: if you’ve not attended before but would like to try us out, we invite you to attend your first meeting free of charge. Please email facilitator Mark Cwik to RSVP and we’ll provide you with location info.
With our friendly atmosphere of collaborative inquiry, high quality and challenging readings, professional facilitation and focused discussions, we are confident in calling the Lit Salon Book Club the best book discussion group in London.
- Facilitated by Mark Cwik
- Sunday evenings 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
- Ongoing monthly study, next meeting 03 November 2019
- Meetings in South London (West Norwood SE27)
- 03 November recommended edition: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Fourth Estate (2014); ISBN-13: 978-0007356348
- £15 per month, registration in six-month subscriptions, or as one-month trial.
TO REGISTER for this ongoing study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £90 for a six-month subscription:
OR, for monthly payment, use the Paypal button below to pay £15:
November 15 - 17 2019, Valencia Spain About A Heart So White Javier Marías is a Spanish writer steeped in the
November 15 – 17 2019, Valencia Spain
About A Heart So White
Javier Marías is a Spanish writer steeped in the literary canon, and particularly influenced by Shakespeare, Sterne, Proust and Faulkner. Our initial study of ‘The Infatuations’ in Valencia was so enriching that a second Marías novel has been selected for a salon in Valencia in November.
‘I did not want to know, but I have come to know’ is the famous first phrase of ‘A Heart so White’ (the title is a highly apposite quotation from ‘Macbeth’). What the narrator did not care to investigate was the death, before he was born, of his aunt which led to his own existence as his father then married his deceased wife’s sister. As in many of his closely interlinked novels, Marías begins with an account of a violent episode; its repercussions form the highly discursive ‘plot’ of the book, an underlying structure which allows Marías free rein to dissect, in Proustian sentences, human behaviour, our relationships, our loves, our jealousies, our dissimulations, our betrayals, our need to know what sometimes we might more comfortably ignore, the power of language to inform or confound.
Marías writes at a time when Spain is at last confronting its civil war and the repercussions of a policy, post-Franco, of ‘forgetting’ the horrors committed on both sides in order to avoid further bloodshed and to democratise the country: no ‘truth and reconciliation’, no accountability, and therefore no justice. And democracy was swiftly adopted, but every Spanish family carries the effects of that war, and Marías, with others of his generation, explores in his fiction the ambiguities of memory, the question of guilt, the need to enter the narrative and to take responsibility for one’s action – or inaction.
—by Elspeth Ferguson
Land of paella and palm trees, Beaux Arts buildings , Moorish influence , exotic and joyously authentic… the third largest city in Spain, Valencia is still largely unspoiled and literally has everything: a vibrant food scene (and oh, the wine!), a pristine Mediterranean beach, cultural attractions including the architecturally stunning City of Arts and Sciences, churches galore (this is Spain, after all) and, for foodies, the glorious Mercat Central – at 8,160 sq. meters, the largest covered fresh food market in Europe. But what really shines through is the juxtaposition of the general atmosphere of ‘joie de vivre’ – Valencians love a fiesta- and the soul of the city, concealed amongst cobbled alleys and hidden squares, magnificent and crumbling and lit by a most extraordinary light… every stroll an adventure, every vista a revelation, so much to discover.
Ooh- this just in from Forbes magazine:
Five Reasons Why Valencia, Spain Should Be Your Next Holiday Destination
Valencia on the east coast of Spain is the country’s third largest city (after Madrid and Barcelona) and offers many of the same attractions of these two better known cities. If the birthplace of paella with its seven kilometers of sandy beaches and virtually year-round sunshine wasn’t already on your radar, it might be now due to a major exhibition by Spain’s best known impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (born in Valencia in 1863) …
About the writer:
It is an intellectual journey to consider literature outside of my own cultural view…not realising how limited my understanding of Spanish writing is until pressed to come up with a title other than Don Quixote or Lorca. I have been turning over ideas about the category of national identity for writers: how much is a writer’s voice a product of a particular time & culture, how much does the reader need to understand (or gain an understanding of) a culture’s history and unique concerns through a novel? Contemporary Spanish writers share the global genre evolutions of realism and modernism; their country’s history of violent upheaval, fascism and a re-born democracy imprint the literature. Yet the shared struggles around love, loss, jealousy, betrayal move me into this lesser-known world.
“Once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten. What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with.” From Infatuations by Javier Marais
- Dates: 15-17th Nov First discussion @ 5:30 Friday afternoon; last discussion Sunday 12- 2 ending with Paella meal on the beach
- 6-8 hours of discussion spread over three days
- Participants organise flight and accommodations; our host Robin will provide suggestions (overall, Valencia is quite affordable)
- We will share some meals (Robin is offering to prepare a grilled feast Saturday evening with fresh market offerings—we will share cost); Friday eve & Saturday morning is open for you to discover the city for dinner and wandering
- Cost for the Salon study is £130—includes supporting notes & introductory materials
Please use the Paypal button below to pay £130 and register for this study. Price includes six hours of discussion and supporting materials.
If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.
Great Ideas, Great Books is our ongoing, monthly Salon where you will encounter the core texts and core ideas in the western
Great Ideas, Great Books is our ongoing, monthly Salon where you will encounter the core texts and core ideas in the western intellectual tradition. Each month, we read a key work by authors such as Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Milton, Marx, Austen and Eliot. Through these works, you will wrestle with the basic and enduring questions of what it means to be human: What is right and wrong? How do we come to know things? What do we owe to our families, our society, ourselves? What is happiness? What is a good life? What is a good society? We will talk about justice, morality, beauty, love, honor, death, government, society, goodness, community.
To encourage careful reading, and to fit our discussions into busy lives, we keep each month’s selection to a manageable length. For longer works, we read the book over two or more months, or we read substantial selections that present an author’s most important ideas.
During our discussions, we examine a reading from many different angles, puzzling over difficult passages, exploring the intricacies of a plot line, the layers of meaning in a poetic phrase, the subtleties of an argument or the implications of a thesis. We examine the ideas an author has set out, and consider them seriously. We also step back from the details to see whether what an author has to say makes sense and is relevant to us or not.
You don’t need any specialized knowledge or background in classic literature to join Great Ideas, Great Books. It is our expectation that most participants will be reading many of the authors for the first time. All you really need is a willingness to read carefully, listen thoughtfully and entertain new and sometimes-challenging ideas.
In our first year since starting in September 2018, Great Ideas, Great Books has dwelt in the ancient Greek world, with Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle. As the program progresses, we will move to later works including those from the Roman world, from the Judeo-Christian scriptural tradition, the middle ages and enlightenment, up to modern thought. Great Ideas is structured as a long-term project, with the flexibility to direct our focus to differing topics and time periods according to the interests of the group.
Our readings so far:
September 2018—Homer, The Iliad, Books 1 – 12
October 2018—Homer, The Iliad, Books 13 – 24
November 2018—Herodotus, The Persian Wars, selection
December 2018—Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, selection
January 2019—Plato, Meno
February 2019—Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
March 2019— Sophocles, Antigone
April 2019—Aristotle, Poetics
May 2019—Plato, Apology, Crito, Phaedo
June 2019—Euripides, Medea
17 September 2019—The Epic of Gilgamesh
22 October 2019—Plato, Republic, Books 1 – 5
19 November 2019—Plato, Republic, Books 6 – 10
The Great Ideas group currently has two seats available. Registration for Great Ideas, Great Books is in six-month subscriptions. The £25 per month registration includes introductory notes that set the context for each reading, and questions to help focus your reading and prompt your thinking about key aspects of the text.
- Facilitated by Mark Cwik
- Tuesday evenings 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
- Ongoing monthly study
- Meetings at The Mug House, London Bridge SE1 2PF
- October/November recommended edition: Republic by Plato, translated by G. M. A. Grube, revised by C. D. C. Reeve; Hackett Publishing Co, Inc (1992); ISBN-13: 9780872201361
- £25 per month, registration in six-month subscriptions
TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £150. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration.