Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Morning Study Group

More than eight years ago I joined a reading group that was started with the aim of reading Ulysses by James Joyce. We were prepared for a slow and thorough examination of the text and we spent more than nine months of weekly discussions (minus an occasional holiday) diligently analyzing our weekly reading and having not a little bit of fun while doing so. Our group at the time was wittily called "Sunday morning in the Park with Joyce" by our host and leader Joel Jacobsen, the owner/proprietor of The Lincoln Park Book Shop. The experience was exhilarating and necessary in the case of Ulysses considering the difficulty of the text. In fact we enjoyed the experience so much that we decided to continue to read classic and perhaps "great" works of literature using the same slow approach. Now, more than eight years later, we have just finished a slow reading and discussion of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. There have been a few changes: the witty moniker is gone, the Bookshop is gone (we have migrated to a "Salon" in the basement the building where Joel lives), we spend two hours instead of one and a half and do so every other week. The size of the group has varied from year to year and book to book with a core group that has continued through them all.
As we are about to embark on a reading of The Plague by Albert Camus I find myself reflecting on the breadth of our reading and discussions over the eight years. At the risk of forgetting some important works we have read I will mention a few. They have ranged from The Epic of Gilgamesh and Aeschylus' tragic trilogy, The Oresteia, to Moby-Dick and Huckleberry Finn. We spent the better part of two years discussing Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers and read Cervantes' Don Quixote, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and Goethe's Faust. The most modern work we have tackled is Omeros by Derek Walcott. This modern epic masterpiece resonated with references to Homer's Odyssey which we read on the side as part of our original foray into the world of Ulysses. It has been a good eight years and I hope we make it to ten and beyond.

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