Reflections on Their Eyes Were Watching God by Alison Cable The Dream Keeper, by Langston Hughes Bring me all of your dreams, You dreamers, Bring me all of your Heart melodies That I may wrap them In a blue cloud-cloth Away from the too-rough fingers Of the...
We so appreciate feedback about the Salon experience! Thanks to Ethan for this… Beloved Literary Salon June 2020 By Ethan Brooks The silver lining in a sudden need to avoid unnecessary contact with other people is that there has been a collective realization of...
“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....
Sue Fox is a Salon member who has added her good mind and passionate reading to studies on Invisible Man, Hamlet, Faulkner– just to name a few….this article first appeared in the on-line magazine JewThink. Thanks to Sue for letting us publish here as...
Reading to Widen Perspective The London Literary Salon has always been committed to using literature to combat prejudice. I have been leading discussions on literature by Black Americans for 30 years- and continue to find the study of the passionate writing by Toni...
Toby wrote an article for the Camden New Journal advocating for (what else?) the joy of Big Reads: Full article may be found here: http://camdennewjournal.com/article/review-book-club-take-time-to-rejoice-in-joyce “Does it help to know that others before us have...
Since the Corona Virus crisis began, we have all been looking for ways to reach out to those in need. The LLS has been supporting LifeAfterhummus with Salons that are donation-only– the Salon can be joined for as little as a pound– and the donations go to...
MEDIA RELEASE – 8 APRIL 2020 (for immediate release) KEEP CALM, READ ULYSSES AND CARRY ON . . . The impact of COVID-19, which initially threatened disaster, has resulted in one London business going global almost overnight. The Kentish Town-based London...
Than there is the writing: to grapple with the words and linguistic pyrotechnics of James Joyce—to enter into his exploration of the body, mind and street-life, to sit in awe of his allusions, musicality, interweaving structures and thematic developments is to expand...
Feedback on Zooming the Salon—Virtual Reality March 2020 “Thanks Toby, I wish everyone stuck at home had such an uplifting and entertaining group to spend time with each week. Looking forward to next time—” (CD, Finnegans Wake) “Thanks for yesterday,...
“It has made me better loving you... it has made me wiser, and easier, and brighter. I used to want a great
“It has made me better loving you… it has made me wiser, and easier, and brighter. I used to want a great many things before, and to be angry that I did not have them. Theoretically, I was satisfied. I flattered myself that I had limited my wants. But I was subject to irritation; I used to have morbid sterile hateful fits of hunger, of desire. Now I really am satisfied, because I can’t think of anything better. It’s just as when one has been trying to spell out a book in the twilight, and suddenly the lamp comes in. I had been putting out my eyes over the book of life, and finding nothing to reward me for my pains; but now that I can read it properly I see that it’s a delightful story.”
― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
The Portrait of A Lady by Henry James
The book is a painted portrait or even a kaleidoscope. We watch and guess what Isabel will do. But like a portrait, she is (perhaps) caught in a frame and frozen by the artistry –or the terms of her world.
Previous studies have included considerations of gender roles, the negotiated space between self and other, the corruption or freedom offered by privilege, the challenge of looking at nationalities in generalizations (and the tempting ease to do so), the ways in which humans reveal themselves…these Salon discussions are full of wonder: the meeting of the gathered minds and the provoking text is a powerful thing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson seems to echo in the lines and characters of Henry James, Isabel in particular: “You think of me the child of my circumstances: I make my circumstance…I—this thought which is called I, –is the mould into which the world is poured like melted wax. The mould is invisible, but the world betrays the shape of the mould. You call it the power of circumstance, but it is the power of me.” –from Emerson’s essay The Transcendentalist
Our study of PoAL may include a consideration of this quote in light of Isabel’s life and choices: how much do we make ourselves? How does the world impose itself on the individual in the act of self-creation?
To register for the Salon study, please use the Paypal button below to pay £165: Please ensure that the email that is connected to your Paypal account is the same email that you use for correspondence
From J. Smiley’s 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
“The question (could a novel be art) were…framed in terms of technique, but the ideal was no longer just to promote the novel’s ability to communicate more and more details about more and more things, but also to have an aesthetic shape or effect that would be intended by the author and felt by the reader as consciously graceful, beautiful or ‘right.’ Foremost proponent of these ideas was Henry James…” p. 134
“Everything that Isabel has learned about love and marriage growing up in the United States turns out to be wrong—in Europe, marriage is a pure commodity relationship, and it is the fate girls to be bought, sold, and dominated. Their only choices are to accept their fate knowingly or undergo it without understanding it. ..In Pofa Lady James does what he intended to do…uses intense psychological analysis and careful depiction of settings to fill the spots where the vulgar might have been. “ p. 135
“H. James …recognized that, as vital and satisfying as the English novel was, English novels were missing something that French novels possessed—psychological refinement and depth. …HJ wanted to write…important novels about the progress of the inner life, in which the climax might be only a silent recognition by the protagonist that she has made a commitment fatal to her happiness. Readers had to be educated to understand the weight of such subterranean drama…” p.136
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Richard Wright, a fellow Harlem Renaissance writer and critic of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God wrote that her work was not political enough, saying:
“Her characters eat and laugh and cry and work and kill; they swing like a pendulum eternally in that safe and narrow orbit in which America likes to see the Negro live: between laughter and tears. . . The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought.”
Wow. That’s crushing.
But in the 1970s, the novel, half bildungsroman and half romance, was reclaimed by Alice Walker and a generation of feminists who insisted that the personal is political. While not a book about politics and race, it can be proposed that Janie’s emancipation involves politics and race. Zadie Smith writes in the forward:
“It is about the discovery of self in and through another. It suggests that even the dark and terrible banality of racism can recede to a vanishing point when you understand, and are understood by, another human being.”
The world of the American South at the turn of the century, particularly Eatonville, Georgia, the first all-Black incorporated town in America, offers a place where Hurston can pay homage to the humour and inventiveness of local language, placing great value on how people express themselves, the folk experience. In Janie’s telling of her own self-discovery and self-determination, we can find imbedded a sexual awakening, folkloric themes and vernacular speech—a rhetoric of authenticity—and the arguments of early feminists. In her quest, Janie experiences different husbands and different communities—travels “to the horizon and back”—in order to tell her own story as a spiritual journey from wealth to power to love.
Hurston’s focus on the Black community, her centring of Black cultural experience and characters may be seen as resistance to the narratives of Black people reacting to racism. Hurston’s narrative shows the effects of racial inequality, but the story concentrates on Black relationships, work, story-telling, intimacy and cultural experience. This is a celebration that opens the reader’s understanding beyond social protest writing. There are aspects of the writing that the reader has to situate in the time setting: the use of dialect, for example, can be seen as challenging or authentic to the cultural world of the novel.
Few novels of the time centred around a woman speaking for herself in an attempt to understand her own life. Our discussion will include consideration of desire and love in a society that is bent on the stifling of women and reflections on how the concerns of this story have descended into our contemporary age: what does it mean to be a self-determinate being in our age?
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…
Of all kinds of reading, we are apparently least likely to reach instinctively for poetry.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…
Of all kinds of reading, we are apparently least likely to reach instinctively for poetry. Perhaps we had less than happy experiences as teenagers, force-fed The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Maybe we are daunted by the perceived difficulty of the form, with its elusive meanings, and feel that it is a pleasure restricted to an elite few. This salon welcomes those of us who have read little poetry and enjoyed less, as well as those for whom poetry is a welcome friend.
The word sonnet is derived from the Italian word sonetto, a little song. By the 13th century it had come to signify a poem of fourteen lines that follows a strict rhyme scheme, usually reflecting upon a single sentiment, and with a clarification or ‘turn’ of thought in its concluding lines. There were many sonneteers in several languages but it was the Earl of Surrey who developed the rhyme scheme – ABAB CDCD EFEF GG – that came to be used by the most famous practitioner of the form, William Shakespeare. His collection of 154 sonnets was first published in 1609.
A Shakespearean sonnet is a usefully compact addition to anyone’s mental library and, in this study, each participant will choose one from a selected list. There is no need to have memorised your chosen sonnet – although you may find you want to by the end of our evening.
Using a few simple exercises, we will spend time with our own sonnet and with each other’s choices. The purpose is not to challenge Sir Ian McKellen in performance achievement, but to have the experience of living inside these beautiful words and lifting them off the page.
Facilitated by Jane Wymark
One meeting study from 6 To 8 PM (GMT) on 23rd November
VIRTUAL meeting on Zoom
No preparation required
Recommended Sonnets and further details will be emailed upon registration
Cost: 20£ for two-hour study (first-time Salon participants eligible for a discount)
*This study is now full– please contact us to be advised of a second Sonnet study*
Please use the Paypal button below to register by paying £20 for the one-meeting study- if you prefer to pay by direct bank transfer, please contact us for details. Upon payment, you will receive opening notes and further information.
She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone;
She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.
–Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf’s writing hits emotion first—‘what happens’ takes second place to ‘what feels’. The language is packed with subtlety, nuance and evocative images as Woolf probes the depths of intimate relationships. Come join us for this exploration of a warm June day in London: madness, aesthetics, the nature of love and intimacy, war, relationships across and between genders, Imperialism—all are prodded in this delicate and lyric work.
Facilitated by Toby Brothers, Salon Director
Four-meeting study starting Nov 25th running through Dec. 16th Wednesday early evenings
Virtual Meeting on Zoom
Cost £115 includes notes and critical resources *reduced cost available for first-time participants*
Recommended edition: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf; Oxford World’s Classics edition; ISBN-13: 978-0199536009
Please use the Paypal button below to register by paying £115 for the four-meeting study- if you prefer to pay by direct bank transfer, please contact us for details. Upon payment, you will receive opening notes and further information.
Mrs Dalloway makes an ideal study: her writing is challenging to read on one’s own, rich as it is in images, references and details that deliver a powerful emotional and intellectual impact. The study format encourages exploration by reading with a group of diverse and questing minds. Together we will work to understand Woolf’s incisive study of human personality—and use some of her contemporaries (Freud, Henri Bergson, Roger Fry) to help make sense of this new writing she creates. Here is Julia Briggs from her biographical study of Woolf through her works:
“Mrs. Dalloway is the story of a day in the lives of a man and woman who never meet—a society hostess who gives a party, and a shell-shocked soldier… What they have in common or why their stories are told in parallel, the reader must decide, for this is a modernist text, an open text, with no neat climax or final explanation, and what happens seems to shift as we read and reread. Woolf intended her experiment to bring the reader closer to everyday life, in all its confusion, mystery and uncertainly, rejecting the artificial structures and categories of Victorian fiction.”
As You Like It -- Shakespeare study with Jane Wymark
As You Like It, with its cross-dressed heroine, gender games and explorations of sexual ambivalence, its Forest of Arden and melancholy Jaques, speaks directly to the twenty-first century. Although the play is rooted in Elizabethan culture – literary, social, political, aesthetic – Shakespeare has placed a prophetic finger on the pulse of the future. Amongst the myths of classical pastoral and of the biblical Garden of Eden are a group of displaced persons fleeing family disruption and political corruption. In raising the profound questions about the nature of liberty, renewal and regeneration posed by the new environment of the Forest, Shakespeare has created a comedy of extraordinary flexibility and depth.
Juliet Dusinberre, from the introduction to the Arden edition.
Salon Details and Registration
Seven weeks :Nov 30, Dec 7 and 14, Jan 4, 11, 18, 25 2021 18:00-20:00 GMT
ZOOM Virtual Study
Facilitated by Jane Wymark
Cost £140 includes notes and critical resources
RECOMMENDED EDITION: Arden Shakespeare
Bloomsbury, Ed. J. Dusinberre, ISBN HB:978-1-9042-712
This study is now full; Jane plans on announcing a Hamlet study for the New Year… To register: please email Jane who will advise you on how to make the payment firstname.lastname@example.org
In Hamlet, when the players arrive at Elsinore, Polonius lists their repertoire:
“ The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene undividable, or poem unlimited. Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these are the only men.”
If Hamlet itself is the definition of ‘tragical-historical’, As You Like It, written at around the same time (1599/1600)mirrors it as perhaps the greatest example of “pastoral-comical”.