One of the major events of the year for the Great Books Council of San Francisco is the spring weekend at the Asilomar Conference Center in Monterey, California, named in honor of beloved Great Books leader Barbara McConnell. During the weekend there are discussions of poetry, a work of nonfiction, a work of theatre and a work of fiction. The beauty of the area is conducive to stimulating discussions and convivial parties.
Our next Asilomar weekend will be held on March 31 - April 2, 2017.
John Steinbeck is the only California native to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Born in Salinas, he attended Stanford and chose to remain in Central California, living in Salinas and Pacific Grove. The California people and its land often provide a backdrop or subject for his novels, including East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flat and The Red Pony. Most of his works explore themes of fate and injustice.
In 2017, the Asilomar Weekend will celebrate and discuss the works of John Steinbeck.
For our novel, we'll discuss Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row. It is set in Monterey during the Great Depression, and examines the lives of people who worked in or lived near its sardine canneries.
For our theatrical work, we'll discuss Of Mice and Men, in the theatrical adaptation written by Steinbeck himself. It won the 1938 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play (a high honor in a year prior to the start of the Tony and Drama Desk Awards). Of Mice and Men has been revived several times on Broadway, most recently in 2014 with James Franco as George and Chris O'Dowd playing Lennie.
Our nonfiction discussion will examine Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez. This remarkable book is a day-by-day account of The Western Flyer's 4000-mile voyage around the Baja peninsula and then around the Sea of Cortez. It is at once a vivid and engaging story of an adventure, a serious scientific record, and a log of Steinbeck's deep and often witty philosophical musings. We'll meet Steinbeck's friend Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist, who became the model for Doc in Cannery Row.
Steinbeck didn't publish any volumes of poetry, so for our poetry evening we'll turn to some of the short works of another Central Californian, Robinson Jeffers. Born in Pennsylvania, Jeffers eventually relocated to Carmel, where he built a remarkable home, Tor House and Hawk Tower. Like Steinbeck, Jeffers often devoted his works to themes involving social injustice and the less fortunate among us.
Our weekend plans also include:
A docent-conducted tour of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas.
A talk about Steinbeck's life and work by Joseph Coulson, President of the Great Books Foundation.
A Saturday-evening party with entertainment and refreshments.
Registration for this event is now closed.
There are two ways to get more information and register for this event:
For a mail-in form, please download the mail-in registration form.
To register online with PayPal or a credit card, please use online registration.
During retreats in recent years we've discussed plays such as The Piano Lesson, Marat/Sade, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, King Lear, and No Exit; works of fiction such as Seize the Day, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Secret Sharer, A Thousand Acres, and The Dead; and nonfiction works by authors such as Alexander Hamilton, Vladimir Nabokov, Annie Dillard, Abraham Lincoln, and Eugen Herrigel; as well as selected poetry. To see what works the San Francisco has discussed during our 50+ years at Asilomar, please click this past discussion list.
The Asilomar event co-coordinators are Rob Calvert and Louise Morgan. Rob can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.