Vol. 8 No. 1
Spring/Summer 2003

Reading Matters


Serving Northern California

World's Cheapest Triple Header -- Fun in the Sun with Great Books

The annual “Great Books Triple Treat” is scheduled for Sunday, June 22, at Padre Picnic Area in Tilden Park, Berkeley.  Treat one--the picnic.  Treat two--the annual meeting and election of officers.  (The treat is that it is very short--the shortest meeting you will ever attend.) Treat three--a discussion of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie.

And it’s free!  You bring your own food and beverage, a dish to share with at least four other people (there is always plenty, especially desserts!), utensils, paper plates, and a tablecloth if desired.  Picnic organizer Kathleen Conneely adds, “The very wise also will bring a wide-brimmed sun hat and a folding chair.” 

The committee will have grills ready for barbecuing when the event begins at noon.  Look for red balloons to mark the picnic area and find directions in the flyer enclosed in the newsletter.  The event ends about 3 o’clock. Picnic Committee chair is Kathleen Conneely and members are Vince Scardina, Gary Geltemeyer, Rob Calvert, Jan and Tom Vargo, and Dorothy Jansizian.  Tom Cox acts as a consultant.

Power of Words

The committee has chosen a New York Times bestseller about the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the power of words, especially stories.  In the novel, two young men from the city are exiled to the remote countryside.  In a mountain village they get to know the daughter of the local tailor and discover a collection of banned Western classics in Chinese translation.  Flirtations with the seamstress and the revelations of the forbidden literary works transport them from their difficult daily life to a new world of possibilities.

He Knows Whereof He Writes

Dai Sijie writes from experience: he was “re-educated” between 1971 and 1974.  Primarily a filmmaker, Dai Sijie left China for France in 1984, and published this novel, his first book, in France in 2000.  It won five prizes and became an international bestseller.

Breaking News

Brian Mahoney Up for President, Lou Alanko for Veep

Barring an unexpected coup d’etat, James Joyce enthusiast Brian Mahoney, of Pleasanton, and the energetic Lou Alanko, also of that city, will be elected  president of the Council and vice president for 2003-2004 at the June 22 picnic.  The Executive Committee accepted these recommendations at its May 18 meeting.  Brian and Lou have been the Council’s most effective organizers of new discussion groups.

Kay White has agreed to take the reins from Wallis Leslie as chair of leader training.  Wallis will act as her mentor.  Barbara McConnell will recruit the leaders.

As this goes to press, there is not yet a nominee for secretary. Grace Dennison will go on as treasurer. Others to continue  their responsibilities include Brent Browning to chair Asilomar, with Jimmie Harvey assisted by husband Roy as registrar; Chuck Scarcliff to select the Asilomar novel and the play and Brent the essay; Louise DiMattio to chair the long novel weekend and select the book, with Mary Stuart as registrar; Mary Wood to chair  poetry and lead Reading Matters, with Rick White as publisher; Kathleen Conneely to chair the annual meeting/picnic; Rob Calvert to keep on as webmaster; and Jan and Tom Vargo, database and mailing. 

Get in Step with Parade’s End: You Can’t Af ‘Ford’ to Miss it

A country weekend for $130?  Can’t beat the bargain of the Long Novel Weekend.  Plus you are guaranteed wonderful people with whom to talk, share meals and party. Walker Creek Ranch, in the pasturelands of Marin, is, for the fourth year, the setting for this popular event to be held August 23 and 24. 

Although it’s only a short ride from San Francisco, there’s a wonderful feeling of being miles from anywhere. The ranch is surrounded by hills with 20 miles of hiking trails.  The map shows a creek with two “seasonal bridges”; the website promises a turtle pond for swimming and a playing field for baseball or volleyball. 

And this year’s long novel, Parade’s End, by Ford Madox Ford, promises to be stunning. Here’s an enthusiastic reviewer on Amazon, David Liam Moran:  “One of the greatest books EVER written in the English language.  Period.”  Liam Moran goes on to warn you to “let go of expectation and any hope of conventional structure, and to allow FMF’s unique storytelling to settle in your gut slowly.”

More on Ford

Fordhit “The Modern Library 100 Best Novels in English in the 20th Century” list with The Good Soldier, a work too short for the Long Novel Weekend.   Parade’s End made W. H. Auden’s “best” list: “There are not many English novels which deserve to be called great: Parade’s End is one of them.”  Your editor vaguely remembers reading something by Ford 40 years ago in high school.  But as co-chair Mary Stuart points out, reading or re-reading as an adult is different.  In high school you read for the storyline, and when you read slowly it’s different.”   

A Bit on the Style

Not that there isn’t a great storyline. Another Amazon reviewer almost overpowers us with:  “How I wish I could urge this enormous, engrossing, and satisfying novel on everyone who, for instance, loved Pat Barker’s WWI Trilogy, or Ford’s own The Good Soldier, or Mary Renault’s The Charioteer, or indeed anyone who cares about intricate characterization, a terrific love story, sweep and intricacy in serious fiction.” The comparison to Renault belies the modernism of the novel, which is compared to To the Lighthouse and Ulysses for the interior monologue.

Some reviewers saw the book as the story of the end of a British way of life after WWI; others found it a very personal novel.   The societal view is reflected in the title, which comes from the quote:  “No more hope, no more glory, not for the nation, not for the world I dare say, no more parades.”

For the personal view, peterdoc@online.no says, “I am quite sure I wouldn’t have liked it at all as a teenager, but as a man of forty years with a wrecked marriage behind me, I find this a deeply moving account of a man’s grappling with the profound moral issues of love, faithfulness, war and politics.”

Harrymacz says “Parade’s End has never been a best seller; it has never been a modest seller.  But behind the challenge is a heroic life given to us fearlessly, without irony or cynicism….” 

Ford Madox Hueffer?

Ford2, born Ford Madox Hueffer, was not a handsome man: he was fat, had bad teeth, and smoked Gauloises.  Despite this, he had many major relationships with women in his life, the number depending on which source you read.  And despite those time-consuming activities he wrote over 80 books.  He was born in 1873 and was like Parade’s End’s main character, Tietgen, in the army, a lieutenant.  After the war he founded The Transatlantic Review in Paris with Ernest Hemingway as the deputy editor.  Parade’s End appeared in four volumes between 1924 and 1928.  The last decade of his life Ford divided his time between Michigan, where he taught or stayed with friends, and Southern France.  He died in 1939.

Walker Ranch can accommodate 125 people in rooms with twin beds.  And if it really gets popular there are 130 bunk beds.

Sijie has filmed the book on location in China.  The film was nominated for a Golden Globe award this year.  As a moviemaker, says Alysson Oliveira, he has an eye for images, which is also evident in the book.  According to Oliveira, an Amazon reviewer from Brazil, “Anyone who has found the joy of reading a book will be delighted with [this book]. But ultimately,” she says, “the novel is about the power of words—the power to change lives, minds, and hearts.”

The edition we are using is an Anchor paperback available at Barnes & Noble for $7 (because it’s been on their best seller list) and $10 elsewhere.  It is available online from Amazon.com, new or used.


I.  Dreams Turn to Ashes in The Great Gatsby

by Lee Hunter

Daisy Fay Buchanan is a young woman who lives a fantasy life, the perfect flower of Louisville, Kentucky, in the early 1900s--but why was she named Daisy?  Hailing from the South, why wasn’t she called Iris, Rose or Camellia?  She exemplifies a spoiled, rich, coquettish female raised to do nothing more than decorate by sweeping down spiral stairways in impractical yet fashionable gowns, swooning on sofas, filling the air with distinctive gay laughter, humming wistful tunes, entertaining, putting on airs of domestic bliss.  Daisy lives to be adored.  She is married to an oversized over-muscled, very rich, boldly indulgent and supremely self-indulgent man, Tom Buchanan.  Daisy and Tom are beautiful, superficial people accustomed to getting what they want regardless of the cost.

A distant cousin of Daisy, Nick Carraway, narrates the story from West Egg, an imaginary location on Long Island. Nick lives in a small summer rental across an inlet from Tom and Daisy’s East Egg mansion.  Next door to Nick are the huge and ostentatious digs of Jay Gatsby.

Nick is more an observer than a participant in the extravagant activities of these idle rich and their cronies.  He tells their story and can be seen as one of its principal characters, yet he actually goes to a job -- as a bond trader in the city.  Lavish, almost continuous, parties with live music and uniformed servers go on at Gatsby’s while down the road one must travel through ash heaps to get to New York City.  Somehow, Nick develops a bond with Gatsby that outlasts many challenges. 

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Polo-playing Tom takes Nick in his car to gather Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, from where she lives among these ash heaps.  Her pathetic husband runs a garage with a residence above it.  They carry on their lives in the constant gaze of eyes on a giant billboard .  The three, Nick, Tom and Myrtle, head for Tom’s plush apartment in the city.

Gatsby is consumed by Daisy, fascinated by her.  Engaged to her before going to war, he returns to find that she has not waited for him.  A poor man, he develops and carries through a plan of “extravagant ambition” to get rich and get her back.  He involves Nick in arranging a tea so that he can meet her, on his turf.  From there the story unfolds to alter the lives of all the characters.

With the (debatable) exception of Nick, the rich are exposed one by one as corrupt and the poor as merely venal.

2. Chekhov’s The Seagull: A Story of Misfits

by Lee Hunter

Anton Chekhov’s play The Sea Gull shows how generations of actors and writers conflict with one another over both art and life. The work demonstrates differences among experienced, traditional writers and younger actors and writers striving for a contemporary approach to art.  Much of the play focuses on love offered and rejected and the loneliness that entails. 

Little action takes place, as Chekhov focuses instead what his characters say to one another.  Each in turn declares their sad plight.  The successful actress rebukes her son, resenting his maturity because it shows her age. As well, she is angry at his rejection of traditional writing. 

Her brother owns an estate, a working farm in Russia by a lake.  It is here that the play is set.  The brother’s health is failing.  He wails about all of the things he hasn’t done, the places he hasn’t gone, and most of all how he wanted to write. The good medical doctor, retired, lives across the lake.  He too wanted to be a writer.  Ironically, with no experience in writing, both the estate owner and the doctor set about encouraging and helping the young writer.

The pain of each player is reflected in a love that is given and not returned.  The young writer loves a rich man’s daughter.  This young woman loves the older writer who attempts to ruin her life and nearly succeeds.  The estate manager’s wife loves the doctor.  The couple’s daughter loves the young writer, but she marries the poor schoolmaster.  They have a child, yet she prefers to continue living on the estate.  It helps to diagram these relationships. 

A sea gull is shot for no evident reason.  Years later the bird, which has been stuffed, is presented -- a free bird murdered purposefully to signal what is to come, foreshadowing their fate, what they will do, what will become of them.

Chekhov creates a play within a play that foreshadows the fate of the landowner’s daughter, an actor in the play.  Its author is the young writer.  Satan which may explain why Satan is its main character:  The devil may claim his due from the pretentious older set but not from the landowner’s daughter.   In her stage speech says:  “One thing only is not hidden from me: in my fierce and obstinate battle with Satan, the source of the forces of matter, I am destined to be victorious in the end.”

3. “The True Believer” – Are Altruists Necessarily Misfits?

by Chris Ostergren

Eric Hoffer's The True Believer provokes the reader through counter-intuitive assertions.  "The hatred and cruelty which have their source in selfishness are ineffectual things compared with the venom and ruthlessness born of selflessness," he writes.  By selflessness, Hoffer means not simple generosity, but a willingness to sacrifice one’s personal interests, indeed life itself, for a greater goal.      Examples that he cites make it difficult to refute the idea that selfless devotion, or what seems like it, is a distinguishing feature of fanaticism, both political and religious.  However, he seems to go further and suggest that any form of selflessness is inherently unhealthy, writing that selflessness is a neurotic response by people who loathe "their irremediably blemished selves" and who can compensate only by becoming "true believers" in some transcendent cause.

According to Hoffer’s diagnosis, groups that such individuals either form or join are ipso facto fanatical -- at best intolerant, at worst murderous.  No matter what good they might accomplish, they emerge from the same pathology.  Must we then equate Mother Theresa and her  Missionaries of Charity with the Taliban, as Hoffer seems to invite us to do?  Many at Asilomar balked at this equation and suspected prejudice in Hoffer's thinking.

Unstated Assumption

Many of Hoffer's arguments proceed from a tacit assumption that individual self-sufficiency is an unalloyed good and is the very definition of mental health. This assumption is peculiar to the West, one that Americans, in particular, seldom question.  Eastern philosophers have questioned it for centuries.  For Hoffer, the only healthy group would be one that promotes a common cause coinciding with the rational self-interest of each of its members.

Here Hoffer assumes the narrow vision of man as an atomistic individual whose proper aim is to maximize personal gain.  This is a vision compatible with traditional ideas of Western economists, but again, it is one that Eastern philosophies reject.  To the notion of rational self-interest, some such bodies of thought propose a radical alternative: the dissolution of self.  Those who explore this alternative are led to ask: "How can I rid myself of the selfish desires that cause suffering?"  They believe that this inquiry is  likely to produce inward peace and deeply humane behavior rather than the intolerance and violence they see to be characteristic of Western man.

Hoffer does present historical instances of selflessness whose destructive results no one can deny. He frequently singles out the Nazis, so forces us to ask, "Under what circumstances does selflessness turn sinister?"  On the other hand, he omits movements such as the Order of St. Francis, where selflessness is an end in itself. In the Franciscan view, renouncing the self is the same thing as experiencing the oneness of all things. For the Nazis, it can be argued that selflessness is the means to an end.  The storm trooper may, for the present, sacrifice his personal goals, but he sacrifices them because the party offers him future opportunities to force others into doing what they do not wish to do. What at first glance seems to be self-sacrifice turns out to be deferred gratification. Nazism, like other of forms of fanaticism, is ultimately about power. While the group owns this power, the individual member exercises it, thus providing self-will with its greatest satisfaction. Nothing could be further from the kind of selflessness the Franciscans and Eastern thinkers espouse.

An Unstated Assumption is Stated

As I read what I have just written, I see that I have myself made an unstated assumption: that there is no such thing as a selfless exercise of power.  I believe this to be true, but it too is a parochial, Western assumption.  Here in the West, even God exercises power for selfish reasons. In the spirit of Asilomar, please question all that I have said.  For me, the most valuable resource Asilomar provides is a text to argue against.  In the process of arguing, I discover what I think.  I wish you the same experience.

4. Poetry At Asilomar: More About Misfits

Elizabeth Bishop catches a weary, ugly, battle-scarred fish, and finds rainbows; in “The Applicant” Sylvia Plath makes a bitter mockery of marriage; Robinson Jeffers’s deceptively simple “Carmel Point” questions man’s role in the environment; George Herbert’s “Pulley” draws the weary to heaven; in “The Wave,” by P. Virgilius Maro, love (or is it lust?) like a crashing wave drives all creatures in the spring to “rush to charge into the fire that burns them.” 

Billy Collins questions whether a thousand angels would fit on the head of a pin.  Surely not, he writes.  Surely instead there is one female angel dancing in her stocking feet, accompanied by a small jazz combo.

5. Past President to Investigate Asilomar Theme Committee

                Search group to form

Frustrated by years of failure to find out who is on the theme committee for the Asilomar Spring Conference, Rick White, a recent president of the Council, has decided to assemble a formal investigative group.  "I have not been able to figure out who any of them are or when they meet or where they meet."  They do not publish their minutes,” he complains, “nor do they announce their decisions openly.  Members of the book selection committee cannot explain how the theme came to them.  Once again, as every year, several denied there is a theme or a theme committee.”

But White, a Berkeley-trained sociologist, applies the Duck Standard* to prove convincingly that there is a theme and, following from that, a theme committee, as nothing in Great Books gets done without a committee (QED)

“Obviously,” he reports, “this year's theme was ‘misfits.’  Jay Gatsby, aka James Gatz, fit in nowhere, could not even fit himself to his own name.  The ‘true believer’ is by author Eric Hoffer's own definition someone who does not, who cannot fit into society and therefore needs a cause.  In Chekhov's play, The Sea Gull, the lead character kills himself because he cannot reconcile himself to his role in life.”  And the poems?  "Need we say more? White asks. 

The initial meeting of the Special Committee to Investigate the Theme Committee (SCITC, pronounced Schizy) will take place under a tree to be announced at the Annual Meeting and Picnic at Tilden Regional Park in June prior to the regular business meeting. 

Interested individuals should make it a point to attend the picnic.  


 *If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and has feathers, within an acceptable margin of error it is probably a duck.

6. Success Depends on Many Volunteers

Longtime chairman of the Asilomar event is Brent Browning and registrars are Jimmie and  Roy Harvey.  Others who played important guiding roles this year included Barbara Bettencourt, Louise DiMattio, and Barbara McConnell.  The key man  was Rob Calvert, that is, he made sure to unlock the discussion room doors so participants could get in.  Leader of the preparation meetings, “prediscussions,” was Wallis Leslie.  Other than the poetry, which is always selected by the Poetry Committee,  the readings were chosen by the Book Selection Committee -- Brent Browning and Chuck Scarcliff.  (Brent would like to thank the weatherman for drowning us.)

Discussion leaders were Lou Alanko, Alex Appell, Paul Ballora, Brent Browning, Linda Coffin, Kathleen Conneely, Tom Cox, Lana Dilger, Louise DiMattio, Oscar Firschein, Theda Firschein, Gary Geltemeyer, Jimmie Harvey, Roy Harvey, Lee Hunter, Rudy Johnson, Wallis Leslie, Brian Mahoney, Barbara McConnell, Norman Nayfach, Edith Newton, Tom O’Shea, Chuck Scarcliff, Marjorie Scott, Jim Stabenau, Dean Tinney, Ellen Ward, Mary Wood, Kay White, Rick White.  Prediscussions of the readings were held at the lovely residences of Vince Scardina and Rick and Kay White.

7. Hints to Brave New Leaders from a Cowardly Old Leader

by Mary Wood

I was impressed by the brave new leaders at Asilomar.  To me, leading at Asilomar is a peak experience--in the sense of climbing a mountain, running out of air, freezing to death, and falling to your doom.  That kind of peak.

Wallis Leslie, leader trainer, tells me we are always in need of new leaders.  But, folks, as it’s so much fun to talk, why lead?

There are two reasons I got into leading.  One was I couldn’t say no to Jan Fussell.  Well, who can?

The second was to get a place at the Long Novel Weekend.  It had always had a waiting list at Ralston White, which is why it was moved to a location that sleeps more people.  But if you signed up to lead, you were guaranteed a place. 

I always figure if they are so desperate for leaders, I can’t go too far wrong.  And at the worst, I might screw up so bad I wouldn’t be asked again, and then I wouldn’t have to do it!

Nadir, My Dear, Simply Nadir

My absolute nadir was a time I didn’t lead.  I had held War and Peace in high esteem, Truly Great & Fearsome Literature, up there with Finnegan’s Wake.   I was due to lead the first session of War and Peace at Ralston White, and I was terrified.   I threw up on the road up the mountain.  I developed a terrible migraine and went to bed with chills—three blankets and my coat.  This meant, of course, that I couldn’t lead.  Tom Cox stepped in for me. The headache improved rapidly after the session was over. 

For all fearful leaders, I would like to share with you my absolutely brilliant Asilomar hints:

Hint #1: My premier hint. Warm up the group.  Get there early and talk to people as they arrive.  Introduce yourself as the leader.  Until I did this it was like a mystery -- who is the leader?  At starting time people would point to my name badge and say I was in the wrong group, and I would have to admit that I was the leader. 

I have another motive for the preliminary chat.  I hope that they will see how nice and sweet I am and will give me a lovely rating on the evaluation form. 

Hint #2:   “The best question,” says former leader training chair Tom Cox, “is one you can’t answer yourself.”   Because it represents a genuine search for answers, it stimulates discussion. (This hint didn’t come from me—I know all the answers.)

Hint #3: Ask a question about something you are interested in. This may sometimes contradict Hint #2, but hey—that’s life. 

Hint #4: Pause after you ask your first question.  And wait.   And wait.   I once started the group with a question then, met by silence, being so nervous I answered it myself.

Hint #5:  Lead poetry.  The best thing about poetry is that it is Friday night and now you are free the rest of the weekend is free.  The next best thing about poetry is that poems are short. Which means you can kill time by having the poems read aloud.  Start with the longest poem.  Someone suggested the truly brilliant idea of reading the poems aloud both before and after the discussion.  This was meant to be artistic but it suits the cowardly well too.  If you are really nervous, then start with the longest poem. 

Reading aloud also works for plays.  Get  people to take different parts.  I can’t attest to this personally, because, if you haven’t guessed by now, my weekend would be intolerable if I had to wait until Sunday morning—the traditional spot for the play-- to lead.

Hint #6: Get a fight going.  Phrased more positively “Encourage disparate views.”  The minute you see that two people have differing interpretations, get them talking and stay out of it except to make sure that others can get into the conversation.

You may have some dissenters who insist the group agree on one interpretation.  You will need to tell them that it is fine to end up with more than one interpretation, that the best literature raises issues that are never settled.

Hint #7: Ask a truly outrageous question. For example, for a novel or a play you can ask….”Don’t you really think that [name a character] is a wimp/jerk/womanhater/manhater?”  I can’t say that I’ve tried this myself.  On the other hand, I can't swear that I haven’t.

Hint #8: Toward the end, ask if there is anything else about the selection that someone would like discussed.  You can’t ask such an open-ended question at the beginning.  At the beginning their mouths are sealed---or, at least, seem to be stuffed with peanut butter or something else sticky. 

The Worst Thing that Can Possibly Happen Happens to You:  In the first five minutes you get what seems to be a beautiful and coherent explanation of the entire selection, an interpretation so profound that it answers every question you were going to ask.   This frightens you and it also frightens the rest of the group.  This is when you pray there is someone in the group who smokes and will ask for a smoke break.   

From Pleasanton:

1. Almost Too Well-Kept a Secret

by Kathleen Conneely

Imagine.  Word drifts over the hills of a poetry and arts festival to be held in eponymous Pleasanton.  You are intrigued.

You arrive early Saturday morning at an architecturally interesting marble meeting hall where  two-story window walls look out upon a landscaped courtyard with water fountain.  The outside temperature is 70 degrees, the sun is shining, and the participants are being welcomed by the mayor, Tom Pico, who – after thanking  the president of the town’s Cultural Arts Council, Chuck Cole -- introduces the locality’s own poet laureates, Charlene Villella and Jim Ott.  You learn that the gorgeous buildings and grounds, which usually  rent for $1400 a day, have been donated for the occasion by the CarrAmerica Realty Corporation.  The apparently sleepy town of Pleasanton is serious about the arts.

Not a Minute Wasted

The morning sessions are devoted to workshops conducted by poets Robert Sward and Ellen Bass; the afternoon sessions include a prose fiction workshop led by Pleasanton writer Kathleen Antrim focusing on her own published work.  Youth poetry workshops were conducted by the poet Susan Woolridge, who a couple of years ago led an evening workshop at the SFGB poetry weekend.  Our Lou Alanko facilitated a Great Books discussion of short works.  Cash prizes for writing were awarded to both children and adults.

Admission was $65 and included all of the workshops, activities, readings, and art exhibits, a buffet lunch, and a delicious dinner accompanied by the excellent Con Moto flute ensemble.  A bargain! So, all you Great Bookies consider attending next spring’s Arts Festival in a town well-named—with a too-secret delight.  You’ll think you died and went to heaven!

2. GB Participant is Named Poet Laureate

by Lou Alanko

Kirk Ridgeway of the Pleasanton Great Books discussion group has been named Poet Laureate of Pleasanton for the years 2003-2004.  Kirk is an outstanding published poet, who holds quarterly literary evenings at the Pleasanton Library, is involved in the Poetry & Arts Festival, and is active in local Writers Roundtable and Open Mike nights.

Maxi Results Gotten from Mini Workshop on Leader Skills

The Leader Skills-Polishing workshop held in February left them asking for more.  The feedback your editor got was it was in a lovely room, was fun and full of laughter, and participants wished it were longer.  The four-hour session was held for the first time at the Jewish Home in San Francisco. Workshop leader Wallis Leslie says, “It is a wonderful location arranged by the great Great Bookie and leader extraordinaire, Lee Jordan.” 

Wallis continues, “We shared expertise and experience and laughter while working on developing questions and fostering a group dynamic where everyone participates meaningfully and enthusiastically.”   Informants tell your editor that a lot of the laughter came from an exercise acting out really bad leaders and group members.

There was a great turnout: Attendees included Lou Alanko, Joyce Aoyagi, Kay Blaney, Brent Browning, Roberta Colin, Kathleen Conneely, Grace Dennison, Louise DiMattio, Natalie Dunn, Jim Gallagher, Gary Geltemeyer, Carol Hochberg-Holker, Ralph Holker, Lee Jordan, Wallis Leslie, Brian Mahoney, Maryjean Masri, Barbara McConnell, Janet Miller, Lily Sachs, Mark Scales, Pat Scales, Mary Stuart, Serene Turner, Jan Vargo, Tom Vargo, Kay White, Rick White, Laura Ziock.

Great Books Vacations: Plentiful, Cheap, and Satisfying

London, Paris, Toronto, Bellingham, Washington and Waterville, Maine are a few of many vacation spots where Great Books events not sponsored by our Council can be enjoyed.  In chronological order:

BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON: Brent and Erma Browning will return to the Pacific Northwest Great Books Institute, taking  place June 20-22 on the campus of Western Washington University.  Readings are Seize the Day, by Saul Bellow; Copenhagen, by Michael Frayn, Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor, and A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf.  Contact  Mahlon Nichols (206)633-0536, mahlonnich@aol.com.

ASHLAND, OREGON: The annual Great Books weekend at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival takes place July 18-20.  This year the plays seen and discussed will be Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Wild Oat (by John O’Keeffe, 1791). Contact Duane Denney at (503)297-5024 or Bronwen Daigle at (503)331-8120.

TORONTO, ONTARIO: The Great Books Foundation, Chicago, and the University of St Michael’s College in Toronto sponsor a weeklong event July 20-25.  Composed of eleven seminars, the event features as discussion leaders Great Books Foundation staff Gary Schoepfel, Denise Ahlquist, Nancy Carr, and Don Whitfield.  Topics include illusions of leadership in the Hebrew Bible, contemporary issues in bioethics, and the music of Mahler.  Contact Ann Kirkland, Classical Pursuits Inc., 32 Kippendavie Avenue, Toronto,  ON M4L 3R4; 1-877-633-2555 (toll-free) or www.classicalpursuits.com

WATERVILLE, MAINE: August 3-9 is the 47th Annual Wachs Great Books Summer Institute at Colby College.  “A magic week at a magic place” is what Rick White calls it.  If you love Asilomar, you'll love Colby.  That's the feedback from those who have attended.   

Larry and Roberta Colin of our Council serve on the committee that runs the event.  Roberta says, “It is a great vacation for people who like to read books, who like Maine, who enjoy meeting people of varying ages from young to old--and discussing books.  The campus is gorgeous.  There is a beautiful lake and gym.  And, it's very reasonable."  Adds Kathleen Conneely, "The food is terrific.”  To get to Colby, fly to Boston, then rent a car.  It is sometimes possible to share transportation from Boston. 

Doubt and Belief is this year’s theme (they cop to one) with readings from Unamuno, Dostoyevsky,  Nietzsche, Kafka, and the dour poet, Philip Larkin.  The week is $480 for rooms, books, and meals--including a real Maine lobster bake.  Contact Tom or Carol Beam at (215) 836-2380; email agreatbook@aol.com, or download a flyer from the Great Books website at www.greatbooks.org (search for Colby). 

Others who have attended Colby are Beatrice Petrocchi, Paul Ortega, Lucy Whybrow-Ortega, Jan Fussell, Larry Fussell, Ross Flewelling, Sandra Marburg, Dean Tinney, Ellen Ward, Tom O’Shea, Gary Geltemeyer, and Rick and Kay White.

LONDON:  A London theatre tour with nine plays and six shared-inquiry discussions takes place October 12-19.  Ted Kraus, a former New York City drama critic, is organizing the tour.  Ted is the Rossmoor Evening Great Books leader.  His wife Joanna is a playwright, author, and arts educator.  Ted served on the Tony Award jury for three decades, and reviewed more than six thousand New York and London plays for his weekly newsletter Critical Digest, subscribed to by drama editors and college drama departments worldwide.  Contact Ted at (925) 939-3658 or email at tjkraushouse@hotmail.com .

PARIS, FRANCE:   “They Came to Paris,” a study of the Lost Generation, is the theme for the week-long Program November 7-15, 2003.  Gary Schoepfel and Joe Coulson will lead.  See contact information for Toronto.

Great Books Foundation Lures New Members with Journal, Free Books, Discounts

The Great Books foundation seeks members.  A fee of $29.95 includes a one-year subscription to The Common Review, available for $12 a year separately, a free book from the adult series, a 20 percent discount on individual purchases, a Penguin “Recommended for Discussion” title, and coupons worth more than $300 for selected Great Books events. 

Currently the foundation is having a sale on the 50th Anniversary series, which are 50 percent off ($7.95) --.  the Love and Marriage, Evil and Guilty, etc., books.

Past articles in The Common Review are available free at www.greatbooks.org.  To subscribe or become a member go to the website, email to tcr@greatbooks.org, or write The Common Review, Great Books Foundation, 35 E.Wacker Drive, Suite 2300 Chicago, IL  60601.  The toll free number is (800) 222-5870.


June 22 (Sunday)

Picnic, Annual Meeting, and Discussion

at Padre Picnic Area, Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley, CA.

Contact Kathleen Conneely (510) 530-2344


August 23-24 (Sat. & Sun)

Long Novel

Walker Creek Ranch, Marin County, CA. 

Contact:  Mary Stuart, Registrar (707) 575-1984


November 8-9 (Sat. & Sun.)

Poetry Weekend

Westminster Retreat, Alamo, CA

Contact:  Mary Wood (510)  865-3481 



Serving Northern California

Barbara McConnell & Louise DiMattio, Co-Presidents

Brian Mahoney, Vice-President

Mary Stuart, Secretary

Grace Apple Dennison, Treasurer

Rick White, Erma Browning, Past Presidents

Reading Matters

Publisher, Rick White

Editor, Mary Wood

Letters to the editor or story contributions to marylwood@prodigy.net

SF Website: www.greatbooks-sf.com

GB Foundation: www.greatbooks.org