“There is one peculiarity which real works of art possess in common. At each fresh reading one notices some change in them, as if the sap of life ran in their leaves, and with skies and plants they had the power to alter their shape and colour from season to season. To write down one’s impressions of Hamlet as one reads it year after year, would be virtually to record one’s own autobiography, for as we know more of life, so Shakespeare comments upon what we know.”   — Virginia Woolf

As the Salon season wraps up for August, I am celebrating the amazing discussions that I have witnessed—and, as Woolf comments above, the sap of life that renews my mind as I revisit these great writings. The current Invisible Man study, for example, continues to offer insights to a work I thought I knew inside out…and of course, this book illuminates the moment of change in awareness of systematic and daily racism that Black people and people of colour experience. We are living this now. The Hamlet study that I co-facilitated with the actor Jane Wymark—who KNOWS Ophelia from having played the role to Derek Jacoby’s Hamlet—offered participants a rare opportunity for one-on-one coaching with Jane towards a final presentation of a reading from the play. This was so appreciated that Jane and I are offering another Hamlet in September.


We have posted new studies—and there are more to come. I am thrilled to be working with such a talented group of facilitators—our styles and areas of expertise offer a diversity of approaches but the ethos of the Salon: an open, dynamic exploration of the literature—is the constant in the Salon approach. Basil Lawrence is offering a 10-week study on Nabokov’s Pale Fire. He says: “Pale Fire is a great work of 20th Century literature, and a deeply humane novel. It’s a personal text borne out of Nabokov’s own suffering: a meditation on love and loss; a contemplation of his physical and linguistic exile. Although the story’s humanity is often hidden by elaborate linguistic games, its tenderness is forever present.”

Alison Cable and I are offering a Salon-Intensive study on Zora Neale Hurston’s exquisite novel, Their Eyes were Watching God.  Mark continues to illuminate readers in the classical realm with a coming study on Herodotus and Women in Greek drama…Geoff Brown and I will be running a short study on Henry James (Daisy Miller, The Europeans)  with an eye towards more James studies in the future—including the weekend in Rye that has one space available. We also offering Absalom, Absalom!, Hamlet  and Ulyssesthose studies are filling up! There are two spaces available for the Woolf retreat in St Ives studying her final work, The Years. Coming soon: Marcy Kahan will be announcing another study, and I am running a Middlemarch study starting mid-October…keep an eye on the website.

We all continue to adjust to the strangeness of this time: in the midst of a pandemic whose end is not knowable; ever-changing daily rhythms adjusting to the safety needs of ourselves and those around us—a loss of jobs, travel and the pleasures of community gatherings—and of course, the awful reality of suffering that the disease causes its victims and those who care for them. I hope the experience of the Salon continues to offer a respite from the anxiety and struggle of this time. By going global, we have opened up to folks all over the world and that has strengthened our audience in bringing diverse perspectives. If you would like to enrol in a Salon but are experiencing financial hardship, please email the facilitator—we can often offer a subsidized place. The Salon is committed to supporting its members.

Be Well– and We hope to see you in the pages…

Toby & the Salon facilitators