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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
06jan5:30 pm7:30 pmDubliners: The Sisters and The Dead **STUDY FULL**Dubliners: Between Paralysis and Epiphany in 'The Sisters' and 'The Dead'5:30 pm - 7:30 pm Kentish Town, LondonType Of Study:LiteratureFrequency:WeeklyDuration:Two weeks
Dubliners: Between Paralysis and Epiphany in 'The Sisters' and 'The Dead' “My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of
Dubliners: Between Paralysis and Epiphany in ‘The Sisters’ and ‘The Dead’
“My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis. I have tried to present it to the indifferent public under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories are arranged in this order.”—James Joyce as quoted in Herbert Gorman’s James Joyce (NY, 1939)
Dubliners is characterised by a sense of paralysis. The moral centre of these stories is not paralysis alone but a recognition of that static state. Joyce loved Ireland but could not remain there—part of his critique of his culture and its people is imaged in these stories—in people caught in patterns and prejudices that they cannot escape. In many of the stories collected in this early publication, a clang of awareness or self-realization marks the climax. Often these moments reveal Joyce’s fascination with epiphanies- that moment of sudden and intense illumination when a profound truth is/may be revealed. In Stephen Hero, a character suggests the recording of epiphanies is one of the most important functions of writing: ‘they are the most delicate and evanescent of moments’ and offer ‘a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in memorable phase of the mind itself’. For Joyce, these moments did not occur at the height of the heroic or dramatic gesture, but in the ordinary acts of life. Are there moments in the readings that fit this description? More importantly, what is revealed?
“I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.”
― James Joyce, Dubliners
SALON DETAILS ***This Salon is now FULL– please contact us if you would like to be added to the wait list***
- Facilitated by Toby Brothers
- Monday evenings 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
- Two meetings: five hours total
- Meetings in Kentish Town
- Recommended edition: Penguin Classics (Feb. 2000) ISBN-10: 0141182458
- £60 for the two sessions
TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £60. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration. The study is limited to 10 participants. Please contact us if you have any questions.
We will discuss the opening and closing stories of Dubliners: “The Sisters” and “The Dead”. These are the book-ends of Dubliners and have structural and thematic resonances. This comparison will also allow us to consider the development of Joyce’s craft as he prepares the ground for his later experimentation.
In both works, Joyce is driven to find that moment of illumination, the epiphany, when clarity is suddenly attained. He was convinced this was not a moment of great victory or apparent importance, but often a mundane moment when pieces fell into place.
The style of this study will reflect the traditional Salon format: I will offer a structure for our discussion and particular passages and ideas for us to grapple with, but I encourage and support your contributions to the discussion. I have no expectations in terms of preparation nor previous Joyce study:The Salons typically have a broad spectrum of participants from the simply curious to literature teachers or lecturers—and some who have spent years reading Joyce. Each person brings their lived experience to the study whether it is a knowledge of the Catholic tradition. Irish history, love of music or intrigue with language: all contribute to our understanding as a group.
Joyce can be…intimidating. Please approach the reading with a sense of play. Much may remain unclear on your first reading; after our work together and if you are able to complete a second reading, you may find the pattern and weave of Joyce’s art singing for you. In his writing, he experiments with language and relies less on narrative logic than on the connections and synchronicity of words and events.
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.
Our next selection for 12 January 2020 will be American writer James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Described by its publisher as, “At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two ‘letters,’ written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.”
“Basically the finest essay I’ve ever read. . . . Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.” –Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me
“So eloquent in its passion and so scorching in its candor that it is bound to unsettle any reader.” —The Atlantic
Previous Book Club readings have included:
October 2018– William Trevor’s Two Lives: Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria.
November 2018 — Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight
January 2019 — Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights
February 2019 — Sjón’s The Blue Fox
March 2019 — Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses
April 2019 — Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
April 2019 — Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
May 2019 — Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance
July 2019 — Bridget Collins’ The Binding
September 2019 — Tessa Hadley’s Late in the Day
November 2019 — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah
December 2019 — Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It
Registration for the Lit Salon Book Club is in six-month subscriptions of £90. 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 12 January 2020
- Meetings in South London (West Norwood SE27)
- 12 January recommended edition: The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin; Penguin Classics (1990); ISBN-13: 978-0140182750
- £15 per month, registration in six-month subscriptions, or monthly
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:
PLEASE NOTE: This study is now FULL. Please contact facilitator Mark Cwik to be put on the wait list. The legend of
PLEASE NOTE: This study is now FULL. Please contact facilitator Mark Cwik to be put on the wait list.
The legend of the Trojan War is one of the most enduring stories in our culture, inspiring some of our most creative and moving literature and art—from Homer to Shakespeare to Joyce and the present day. The famous Golden Apple and the Trojan Horse are familiar to most everyone, along with the names of Achilles, Odysseus, Hector and Aeneas—and, of course, the ever-enigmatic Helen at the centre of it all.
After 3000 years, Troy and the Trojan War continue to inspire retellings and alt-tellings. Here in 2019, you’ll find at least three current bestselling novels in bookstore windows based on the war and its aftermath, and a steady stream of new translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey receives prominent attention. From Homer’s time onward, the Trojan War has provided a setting for stories of heroism, glory and conquest—and even more often of grief, sorrow and loss.
This special Salon study is offered to coincide with the new exhibition Troy: Myth and Reality running at the British Museum from November 29, 2019 to March 8, 2020.
Over the eight weeks of the study, we’ll explore the continuing fascination of Troy through discussions of five works in conversation with one another, four from antiquity and one contemporary novel. As part of the study, between the fifth and sixth weeks, we’ll visit the British Museum’s Troy exhibition as a group to see the same stories envisioned in art and sculpture.
Central to the myth of Troy is Homer’s Iliad, which we’ll read over four sessions; we’ll also read the Classical Greek plays Iphigeneia at Aulis and The Trojan Women, both by Euripides, and Philoctetes by Sophocles; we’ll finish the study with a modern look at Troy, the very well-reviewed novel The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker. To round out the study we’ll look at excerpts from ancient source texts that tell the stories of the Golden Apple, the attempts by various heroes to avoid the war, the Trojan Horse, the death of Achilles, and numerous other variations on the Troy myth.
- Facilitated by Mark Cwik
- Wednesday evenings 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
- Eight-session study, 15 January to 04 March 2020
- Rudolf Steiner House, 35 Park Road, London, NW1 6XT. If you are interested in hosting this study in your home or workplace, please contact us.
- Recommended editions:
- The Iliad, by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles, introduction by Bernard Knox; Penguin Classics; ISBN-13: 978-014027536
- The Complete Euripides Volume I: Trojan Women and Other Plays (Greek Tragedy in New Translations), edited by Peter Burian and Alan Shapiro; Oxford Univ Press (2010); ISBN: 978-0195388671
- The Complete Euripides Volume II: Iphigenia in Tauris and Other Plays (Greek Tragedy in New Translations), edited by Peter Burian and Alan Shapiro; Oxford Univ Press (2010); ISBN: 978-0195388695
- The Complete Sophocles Volume II: Electra and Other Plays (Greek Tragedy in New Translations), edited by Peter Burian and Alan Shapiro; Oxford Univ Press (2009); ISBN-13: 978-0195373301
- The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker; Penguin (2019); ISBN-13: 978-0241983201
- £180 for eight-week study.
TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £180. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration.
ABOUT THE FACILITATOR: Mark Cwik has been organizing and leading great books discussion groups for adults for over twenty years in London, Chicago and Toronto. He was trained as a discussion facilitator while at the Great Books Foundation in Chicago and has been a passionate advocate for great books education since attending St. John’s College, Santa Fe and the University of Chicago Basic Program in Liberal Education.
“I’ve been coming to Mark’s discussion groups for about 15 years . . . Mark is amazing in his ability to keep the group functioning smoothly. He asks questions that get to the heart of the piece and he keeps the group focused on those questions. You don’t feel that he’s trying to steer us to any conclusion; he’s in it with us to figure out what the author is saying. He makes everyone feel welcome and their opinions are respectfully heard. He’s always prepared and totally dedicated to advancing our understanding of the great books.” — Chicago group participant.
If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.
“Risky, I’d say, trying to figure out anybody’s state of mind.” Although not as well known as some of Toni Morrison’s other novels, Jazz
“Risky, I’d say, trying to figure out anybody’s state of mind.”
Although not as well known as some of Toni Morrison’s other novels, Jazz addresses with the power we have come to expect from her issues drawn from the legacy of slavery. The novel is about the flight from the South to the North, from the farm to the city, and from family life to independent living. The backdrop is 1920s New York. The built urban environment replaces the open spaces of Ohio in what is and is not a sequel to Beloved.
The connections and disconnections which Morrison weaves between her characters form a loosely structured saga of generational kinship and friendships, in which preoccupations like love, possession, imprisonment, freedom, hate, and forgiveness, bind and separate people, according to their natures and their experiences.
- Co-Facilitated by Geoff Brown and Toby Brothers
- Monday mid-day 12:30- 2:30 (if you are interested in an early evening study on Mondays, contact us)
- Four meetings over four weeks from January 20th- Feb. 10th
- Meetings in Kentish Town
- Jazz by Toni Morrison edition recommended: Picador of 1992 (many copies available on Abe)
- £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.
Despite its title, this is not a novel simply about music. Yet musical rhythms run through its heart. Nor is it simply about race and deprivation, although those issues are central ones. For some commentators, Jazz is Morrison’s most difficult book. Its fluid structure certainly requires careful reading. The study will offer opportunities for considering how the complex arrangement of events and the shifting narration of those events can be understood as a pattern of observation and commentary which reflects hard realities alongside psychological truths.
Description by Geoff Brown- co-facilitator of LLS Jazz study 2020
“…I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of gray half light where all stable things
“…I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of gray half light where all stable things had become shadowy paradoxical all I had done shadows all I had felt suffered taking visible form antic and perverse mocking without relevance inherent themselves with the denial of the significance they should have affirmed thinking I was I was not who was not was not who.”
― William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
In William Faulkner’s first truly modernist work, he attempts to break through the confines of time and sequence to get at the essence of human nature. As Malcolm Bradbury explains, “Faulkner’s preoccupation with time has to do with the endless interlocking of personal and public histories and with the relation of the past to the lost, chaotic present.” The Sound and the Fury exposes a crumbling world through inference and allusion rather than through direct social critique. In the modernist method, Faulkner employs stream of consciousness and symbolism as connecting fibres against individual interior realities that must compete for authority.
This study will draw upon participants’ questions and ideas to shed light on this complex text. The book is richer when discussed, enabling the first time reader access to Faulkner’s vision, while those re-reading will find greater depth and resonance. Upon a first reading, the narratives appear jumbled and opaque; but as the pieces start to fit together, the complex and careful planning that Faulkner employs becomes apparent. Does the work expose the depths and hidden realms of the human spirit? This is what we must grapple with in our study.
- Facilitated by Toby Brothers
- Tuesday evenings 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm (Please Contact us if you are interested in an afternoon study of this work)
- Five-meeting study Starts January 21st; last meeting Feb 25th (no meeting Feb. 4th)
- Meetings in Kentish Town
- Recommended edition: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, Norton Critical Edition (edited by Michael Gorra); ISBN-13: 978-0393912692
- £125 for the five sessions
TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £125. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration. The study is limited to 10 participants. Please contact us if you have any questions.
The following quote resonates for me as to why it is useful to attempt to read a text that seems aloof or unreachable at first. Those who have participated in Salons may know what I mean when I say that the work comes easier when we consider it as a dynamic and motivated group- each person’s question or insight adds to our understanding. I also think that the Salon allows us to make the very private act of reading a part of the public world, and in so doing helps each of us understand our own thoughts about the work more precisely.
“There is a story of a celebrated Russian dancer who was asked by someone what she meant by a certain dance. She answered with some exasperation, ‘If I could say it in so many words, do you think I should take the very great trouble of dancing it?’
It is an important story, because it is a valid explanation of obscurity in art. A method involving apparent obscurity is surely justified when it is the clearest, the simplest, the only method possible of saying in full what the writer has to say.
This is the case with The Sound & the Fury. I shall not attempt to give either a summary or an explanation of it: for if I could say in three pages what takes Faulkner three hundred there would obviously be no need for the book. All I propose to do is offer a few introductory, and desultory, comments, my chief purpose being to encourage the reader. For the general reader is quite rightly shy of apparently difficult writing. Too often it is used, not because of its intrinsic necessity, but to drape the poverty of the writer: too often the reader, after drilling an arduous passage through the strata of themountain, finds only the mouse, and has little profit but his exercise. As a result of several such fiascos I myself share this initial prejudice. Yet I have read The Sound & the Fury three times now and that not in the least for exercise, but for pure pleasure.”
– Richard Hughes, Introduction to The Sound & the Fury, Picador Classics Edition
Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to
Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. -Marcel Proust
After completing incredibly satisfying studies of Ulysses and Magic Mountain, we have turned to the next big mountain of Modernism, Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. This is my fourth tour through the Search— each visit reveals new nuggets and gasping moments This third volume considers closely the draw of the social dance and the realm of social power: you might not think the anxious aristocracy of the Belle Epoque will teach you something about the world you live in– you will be surprised. The two groups who have made it through the first two volumes in the last six months are lively and welcoming– we have room for two or three in either the afternoon or the evening. If you have not read the first two volumes previously, please contact us to discuss.
Here is how one Salonista describes the pleasure and work of reading Proust: ” This is a velvet jewel of a book that demands the attention of a lover full of enchantment and obsession ,we need not get impatient as all good lovers perfect their art in taking their time.”
Reading Proust teaches the reader to observe how the world is experienced, to be aware that although humans are tempted to give greater weight to the perceptual universe, it is the entwining of memory, idealized experience (dreams) and relationships with what our senses perceive that molds our consciousness.
- Facilitated by Toby Brothers
- Wednesday afternoons 5-7 PM OR 7:30-9:30 PM
- Thirteen Meeting study from January 22nd- April 29th (No meetings Feb. 5th or April 1st)
- Recommended edition: Vintage Classics Moncrief/Kilmartin/Enright ISBN-13: 978-0099362418
- £280 for thirteen meetings includes background materials, literary criticism, opening notes & discussion notes
Use the correct Paypal button below to register . The cost is £280 for the thirteen-week study–this will cover the entire volume. I will send along opening notes and critical resources once I have received your registration. Studies start January 22nd 2020.
Here is an avid reader reflecting on their love of this volume (while demonstrating the impact of Proustian prose on one’s own writing):
No longer confined to orbiting his parents and living for the freedom of a solitary walk, no longer living in thrall of adolescent hormones and grappling with the strange new worlds blossoming both within and without himself, The Guermantes Way finds our Narrator thrust ever forward into adulthood and the disappointing discovery that grown-ups rarely behave like adults, especially when the pride of ancestral inheritance is on the line and there are duplicitous societal niceties to abide by, while the utterly insignificance and inanity of it all are underscored to devastating though understated effect by the first real taste of loss that this age usually carries with it. This third volume of In Search of Lost Time captures the period when our window to early 20th-century Parisian society is finding his place in it, though, true to his nervous, writer persona, he seems content to observe (now with the emergence of a sly humor) rather than engage with these exalted figures whose human forms slowly pale in comparison to the larger-than-life names he has aggrandized in youth.
It is, I imagine, intentional that battlefield philosophy receives generous attention early in this volume, as everything that follows is revealed to rest upon a framework of military-caliber tactics, from love (or what passes as love within the confines of Proust’s created world — ye gods, do any of these characters know what a healthy relationship actually looks like?) to facing the Grim Reaper as he counts down the minutes to one’s predestined departure from this mortal coil to the carefully plotted choreography of maintaining superficial acquaintances to simply navigating daily life among even second-rate society when each moment brings a new potential for detonating reputationally ruinous land mines. If my piecemeal knowledge of foreign-language pronunciations isn’t too far off the mark, I’d go so far as to suggest that the first syllable of the titular name is tellingly reminiscent of the French word “guerre.”