This travel study was first run 1 to 8 May 2018, and is currently on offer for May 2020. We are excited to expand the studies by offering retreats that place participants in locales that reflect and expand the literature. By taking participants to beautiful places,...
“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 This...
Toby Brothers and Ann Moradian join forces once again, with Reading the Body, an embodied five-day literary retreat in the idyllic setting of Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. This retreat will be enjoyable for anyone looking to immerse in...
This Salon travel study was offered September 17 & 18 2017 Listed as the 14th best novel in Guardian’s 100 Best Novels: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/23/william-thackeray-vanity-fair-100-best-novels. From Good Reads reviewer John Purcell : “Make...
“What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck...
“Thus when I come to shape here at this table between my hands the story of my life and set it before you as a complete thing, I have to recall things gone far, gone deep, sunk into this life or that and become part of it; dreams, too, things surrounding me, and...
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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.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov 
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov 
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”
-Opening lines of Humbert Humbert’s confession in Lolita
Subtitled “the confessions of a white widowed male, Lolita is an intoxicating mix of apologia, prison diary and urgent appeal to the members of a jury by a 38-year old defendant, Dr Humbert Humbert, an urbane European professor of literature in 1950s America. Humbert, who is obsessed with “nymphets” (Nabokov’s coinage), girls on the edge of puberty, has been charged with the murder of Clare Quilty, a playwright. As Humbert’s confession unfolds, the reader discovers that his defence is a “crime of passion”: he slaughtered Quilty out of love for Dolores Haze, his “Lolita”.
Lolita is a landmark twentieth century novel which explores the wonder and terror of obsessional love. It is, by turns, dazzling and shocking, very funny and very disturbing, both tender and troubling. It’s also an unforgettable reading experience, due in large part to Nabokov’s language: in the words of critic Michael Wood, “a fabulous, freaky, singing, acrobatic, unheard-of English”.
In his Lectures on Literature (1980) Vladimir Nabokov asserted that : “Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only re-read it.” Our text will be The Annotated Lolita but I recommend an initial reading of the text straight through – without consulting the notes. You might have a richer reading experience if you monitor your initial responses before delving into the commentary of the annotated edition.
Facilitated by Marcy Kahan
Wednesday afternoons 12 pm – 2 pm
Five meeting study 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th February & 11th March.
Location: Central London: a few minutes walk from Paddington Station
Recommended edition: The Annotated Lolita. Edited by Alfred Appel Jr. [Penguin]
£125 for five meeting study includes background materials and opening notes
***As of Jan 1st, only two spaces available for this study**
“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it
“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
I consider this to be one of the greatest works of American Literature. The unnamed protagonist’s search for identity in a world that will not see him gives us as readers an opportunity to try to understand the psychological devastation of racism in its subtle as well as its violent forms and to consider how each of us participates in the fate of all humanity. Ellison weaves in themes and images from Virgil, Dante, Emerson, and TS Eliot while also using the structure and transcendence of Jazz to create a work that haunts and stirs to the core of our experience.
Monday afternoons 12:30-2:30 pm ** If you are interested in an early-evening study of this work, please contact us
Eight meetings over eight weeks
Meetings in Kentish Town
Recommended edition: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Penguin Modern Classics (Aug. 2001); ISBN-13: 978-0141184425
£180 for the eight-week study
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.
From Saul Bellow’s essay:
Review of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
published in Commentary (June 1952)
“It is commonly felt that there is no strength to match the strength of those powers which attack and cripple modern mankind. And this feeling is, for the reader of modern fiction, all too often confirmed when he approaches a new book. He is prepared, skeptically, to find what he has found before, namely, that family and class, university, fashion, the giants of publicity and manufacture, have had a larger share in the creation of someone called a writer than truth or imagination that Bendix and Studebaker and the nylon division of Du Pont, and the University of Chicago, or Columbia or Harvard or Kenyon College, have once more proved mightier than the single soul of an individual; to find that one more lightly manned position has been taken. But what a great thing it is when a brilliant individual victory occurs, like Mr. Ellison’s, proving that a truly heroic quality can exist among our contemporaries. People too thoroughly determined and our institutions by their size and force too thoroughly determine can’t approach this quality. That can only be done by those who resist the heavy influences and make their own synthesis out of the vast mass of phenomena, the seething, swarming body of appearances, facts, and details. From this harassment and threatened dissolution by details, a writer tries to rescue what is important. Even when he is most bitter, he makes by his tone a declaration of values and he says, in effect: There is something nevertheless that a man may hope to be. This tone, in the best pages of Invisible Man, those pages, for instance, in which an incestuous Negro farmer tells his tale to a white New England philanthropist, comes through very powerfully; it is tragi-comic, poetic, the tone of the very strongest sort of creative intelligence. In a time of specialized intelligences, modern imaginative writers make the effort to maintain themselves as unspecialists, and their quest is for a true middle-of-consciousness for everyone. What language is it that we can all speak, and what is it that we can all recognize, burn at, weep over, what is the stature we can without exaggeration claim for ourselves; what is the main address of consciousness?
“I was keenly aware, as I read this book, of a very significant kind of independence in the writing. For there is a way for Negro novelists to go at their problems, just as there are Jewish or Italian ways. Mr. Ellison has not adopted a minority tone. If he had done so, he would have failed to establish a true middle-of-consciousness for everyone.”