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,...
March 16, 2020 From Toby– We are entering into a crisis that is unknowable. There are so many difficulties in this moment– it feels easy to get lost in the anxiety and uncertainty. My go-to coping mechanism is to DO SOMETHING– and not just hoard...
"I am nothing to you. You say I am wilderness. I am. Is that a tremble on your mouth,
“I am nothing to you. You say I am wilderness. I am. Is that a tremble on your mouth, in your eye? Are you afraid? You should be.”
― Toni Morrison, A Mercy
Please notice as you read the differing perspectives and narrative styles that tell the story. Notice also how the land—the specific geographical settings—impact character and tellings. Notice how you read different paradigms: for example, what is ownership to one character is different to another….
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
‘Nabokov helps us remember that we can only respect what we can notice, and that it is often
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
‘Nabokov helps us remember that we can only respect what we can notice, and that it is often very hard for us to notice that other people are suffering. He also reminds us of the main reason why it is so hard: we all spend a lot of time inventing people rather than noticing them, reshaping real people into characters in stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, stories about how beautiful and rare we are.’
—Richard Rorty’s introduction to Pale Fire (Everyman’s Library edition)
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.
The book centres around a 999-line poem by a mid-century American campus poet that tells an elaborate tale of grief with wonderful pathos. Supplementary to the poem is a long, apparently deluded commentary by a manic editor, who appears to have taken possession of the poem. The annotations appear to be the tormented confessions of one man’s theft of another poetic life that create a sly and puzzling a work of literature.
As with Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, Nabokov’s novel is a ‘poioumenon’: a work of art that tells the story of its own making; a novel concerned with the process of its own writing; a book that brings itself into existence.
Facilitated by Basil Lawrence
Monday evenings 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Ten meeting study: September 14, 21 & 28; October 12, 19 & 26; November 9, 16, 23 & 30
Recommended edition: Unfortunately, there’s no annotated Pale Fire, but the Library of America edition — with notes — is the next best thing: Novels 1955 – 1962 by Vladimir Nabokov edited by Brian Boyd (New York: The Library of America, 2014) ISBN: 978-1883011192.
If you’re tempted to splash out on a first edition – reasons for which will become apparent during the salon – only buy the 1962 US edition (G P Putnam’s Sons) and not the UK’s Weidenfeld & Nicolson of the same year.
Really important: some versions of the novel only contain the poem, which won’t do for our purposes. Salonistas need to take care to buy a copy containing the foreword, poem, commentary and index. At a push, the Penguin Modern Classics edition will do. (Page numbers won’t matter too much because the book includes the poem’s line numbers, and the commentary is grouped according to line number.) Pale Fire: Penguin Modern Classics by Vladimir Nabokov (London: Penguin, 2000) ISBN: 978-0141185262.
£200 for ten meeting study includes background materials, opening notes and select pages from the 1962 G P Putnam’s Sons edition.
To register for the study, please use the secure PayPal payment button below to pay £200. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration.
Sodom & Gomorrah -- Volume IV of Proust's In Search of Lost Time
Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader
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 fifth 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.
**5-7 PM Full; Two spaces 7:30-9:30** Please contact us if you have questions about starting The Search in the fourth volume
Facilitated by Toby Brothers
Wednesday afternoons 5-7 PM OR 7:30-9:30 PM
Thirteen Meeting study from June 10th- July 8th; Sept 16- Nov 11 (No meeting October 14th)
£290 for thirteen meetings includes background materials, literary criticism, opening notes & discussion notes
This is a VIRTUAL study– depending on the changing circumstances, we may return to live meetings in Kentish Town in October– if you are only able to do this study virtually, please contact me.
Use the correct Paypal button below to register . The cost is £290 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 June 10th .
HENRY JAMES: The Europeans and Daisy Miller
The Europeans – ‘flimsy’ [William James]... ‘performance rather than actual feelings’ [contemporary critic] or ‘a masterpiece
HENRY JAMES: The Europeans and Daisy Miller
The Europeans – ‘flimsy’ [William James]… ‘performance rather than actual feelings’ [contemporary critic] or ‘a masterpiece of major quality’ [F. R. Leavis]?
Daisy Miller – ‘an assault on American womanhood’ [contemporary critic] or ‘Heroine of Fiction’ [William Dean Howells]?
Whether as an entrée for those who have found the Henry James of the mature novels hard to digest, or as a lighter course for existing consumers, this salon focuses on two shorter works by James. Both published in 1878, The Europeans is a relatively rare example of James’ offering a view of American manners by European visitors, while Daisy Miller is an often overlooked gem about an American ingenue getting out of her depth in Italy.
This three-week salon will offer an opportunity to consider some of the issues which feature more extensively and thematically in James’ full-length novels: the collision of ideas of freedom and convention, sexual repression and liberation, innocence and corruption, deceit and honesty, and naivety and sophistication.
Co-facilitated by Salon Director Toby Brothers and Geoff Brown
Three meetings: Tuesday afternoons 22, 29 September and 6 October 2-4 PM
Virtual Meeting on Zoom
Cost £80.00 includes opening notes and resources
Recommended editions Oxford World Classics Series (ISBN-10: 0199639884 for Daisy Miller, ISBN-10: 019955563X for The Europeans: A Sketch)
To register, please use the Paypal button below to pay £80 for this three- meeting study. Upon receipt of payment, I will send you the opening notes, resources and preparation suggestions.
“Well,” said Winterbourne, “when you deal with natives you must go by the custom of the place. Flirting is a purely American custom; it doesn’t exist here. So when you show yourself in public with Mr. Giovanelli, and without your mother—” “Gracious!”
― Henry James, Daisy Miller
How does one introduce a play that is already dizzy on its own superlatives? For this Salon, we come to study Hamlet
How does one introduce a play that is already dizzy on its own superlatives? For this Salon, we come to study Hamlet afresh, not worrying about whether we see it as Shakespeare’s greatest play ever or whether we stand breathless at the language – but finding within the play that that has so riveted audiences and readers for centuries. In addition, we have Shakespearean actor Jane Wymark as co-facilitator: Jane offers deep insights: having played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet for over 200 performances, she has Hamlet in her bones. We welcome to this Salon those who have never read or seen the play along with those who have memorized entire soliloquies – we will need both perspectives to carefully negotiate our way through the “constantly shifting register not only of action but of language” (Frank Kermode, Shakespeare’s Language, 2000).
What is Hamlet about? Themes include the most precise questions of loyalty, revenge and allegiance, what it means to be human, the role of fate and self-will, the truth of madness- the essences of human experience. The language must stand up to the weight of these themes – we will closely examine the words and structures to decide if it does and if so, how. Hamlet as a character is utterly compelling: the sinuous dance of his mind, his outrage at human frailty, his exquisite language infused by his agony at a world too small and mean for his spirit inspires the reader.
As with any other Salon dealing with a dramatic work, we will read aloud — sections of the text and I will suggest viewing various filmed adaptations. For those who are keen to stretch themselves, Jane is offering one-on-one coaching sessions to prepare a passage for the final meeting. We will include in our discussions reflections on various productions and how this play speaks to this strange time we are living; we shall also consider diversity in casting and setting of the play over time. For those interested in reading Ulysses in 2021, this would be a useful preparatory work.
Six meetings over six weeks from September 22nd to October 27th
Meetings conducted virtually via ZOOM
There are many editions; to simplify for this study please use the Arden Shakespeare– loads of notes and opportunities to read around the text and understand the differences in editions ASIN: B015QL4M8S
£165 includes background notes and materials and optional presentation coaching with Jane Wymark
To register, please use the Paypal button below to pay £165 for this six- meeting study. Upon receipt of payment, I will send you the opening notes, resources and preparation suggestions.
Reflections from our previous study:
“Toby, thank you for such an engrossing salon, and so well-choreographed. Hamlet feels like a play that’s a companion through life, and at this turbulent time it has meant so much to me to share it with you and the group. Thank you. You get it, and that makes such a difference.”
“Jane, thank you for a wonderful chance to play, in all senses of the word – I just typoed “world”, probably should have left it! I got so much out of hearing the play during the salon, and of working my way into Gertrude’s Willow Speech. I’ve an uneasy sense I’ve not reached the bottom of what’s going on there, and I look forward eagerly to further exploration. More soon from you both, please!” — June 2020 Hamlet participant
“Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Hamlet with you and Jane…..such a wonderful group and brilliant play…. learned so much……am very bad on Shakespeare… please tell Jane it was wonderful to hear her experience of Hamlet theatre and verse, verse, verse! Would be very happy to do another play any time. Happy August and you will never know how much Lit Salon has helped during this most awful time!”
— June 2020 Hamlet participant
And from Virginia Woolf:
“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 color 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.”