Here we are again, second Tuesday in the month and thanks to the generosity of Oxford University Press, this evening the Endsleigh Reading Salon is about to embark on a long-term and very exciting reading project.
As many who visit here will know this is a very egalitarian, non-elitist, everyone welcome reading group with a difference I set up for local readers.Faced with a love of books and no funding, I had the choice of only two possible venues, the ancient cold and draughty, corrugated iron village hall or the local 5* hotel, a listed building tastefully furnished, log fires crackling in the grate through the winter months, a library fit for the Dukes of Bedford and set in extensive grounds with far-reaching views across the Tamar Valley.
On the off-chance I opted for the cap-in-hand beg for charity approach at the hotel first before collecting the keys to the village hall and figuring out how those calor gas heaters worked.
Alex Polizzi at Hotel Endsleigh jumped at the idea and they have accommodated us with the warmest of welcomes and in great comfort for over a year now, all at no charge and keeping us regularly supplied with tea and coffee served in Wedgewood cups and saucers.The group has settled down to about ten regular members, the bookish chat is second to none and we laugh like drains along the way too.
We have been pondering the logistics of fitting in some reading of the Classics whilst maintaining our rather laissez faire "all read a different book" approach which works like a dream on our regular themed evenings. We hit on the idea of choosing one author, all setting off and choosing a book of our choice by said author and then perhaps devoting the final half an hour or so to discussing what we'd read.
OUP very kindly offered to supply us with the books from the Oxford World's Classics range and we plan to critique the introductions too.
So we came up with four authors we'd like to nail.
The choice wavered and havered, someone begged us not to choose Henry James and we heeded their plea because it was heartfelt, and we quickly ruled out Austen, Bronte, Dickens and Eliot in this round as 'already read quite a few of '.
Eventually we hit on a selection that either few of us had read, or who we'd read but felt we'd like to do justice to in some group discussion. All quite different, Alexandre Dumas, Edith Wharton, Thomas Hardy and Anne Radcliffe.
A huge box of books has arrived ready for this evening and I thought I'd give the Endsleigh-ites who stop by here, and all of you, a little flavour of what's to come.
I'll be reporting back here every so often on how the project is going but I've peeked in the box, pulled rank and craned out a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, all 1000 pages of it.
At this point let me say, I think it was noble of me not to grab the shortest Dumas, The Black Tulip while I had the chance.Few if any of the group had read any Dumas and I only recall The Count of Monte Cristo from that great BBC Sunday night TV series back in 1964 starring Alan Badel when I would have been eleven.
The thinking was that I'd open the book reeeeeally carefully, not bend the spine, read a bit and if I didn't like it I could surreptitiously crane it back into the box and pick another one (don't tell them will you?).
Except I've rapidly thrown my lot in with Edmond Dantes and he's quite the moody teenager.
Typical 19 year old, can't get him out of bed in the mornings and his room is filthy.
"Edmond" I said "this might be the Chateau D'If but there is absolutely no need for all that green slime on the walls"
"No I absolutely don't want to know what it is, just get this place bottomed this minute."
I might have to hang around because I think he's going to do something stupid, a bit of tombstoning would be just like him.
Tsk, these youngsters.
So there can be no turning back now, which is a pity because I've got my eye on The Three Musketeers as well and then there's The Man in the Iron Mask.