What we're about

An Excursion Into the Odd and Fantastical

We are a group dedicated to reading the great literature of the Western canon. Over the last few years, we’ve read and discussed a multitude of renowned works ranging from older classics by Homer, Virgil, Milton and Dante to modern works by Melville, Thomas Mann, Proust and Joyce. We’ve not been intimidated by either a work’s ancient pedigree or its challenging intellectuality. We understand that reading these works that have survived over time and trying to understand their meaning is an adventure of the human spirit worth pursuing.

Now, under a new group name, we’re beginning a new course of selections with themes offbeat and fantastical. The works include odd tales of strange psychology (such as by Dostoevsky, Gogol, and Faulkner) to the fantastical and weird (such as by Swift, Wells, Kafka and Lovecraft). And yes, selections from the Bible will be included, because what could be more weirdly mysterious than those stories?

Below is the list of classics we’ll be tackling. All of these are written by great authors of enormous intellect and power. We have a very talented group of members who love debating, discussing and investigating the fine points of these stories. We hope you’ll join us and welcome new members also enthralled by the classics.

1. Dostoevsky: Devils (Oxford UP) [1872] (read 2020)

2. Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera [1985] (read 2020)

3. Faulkner: Absalom Absalom [1936] (read 2020)

4. Zola: Thérèse Raquin [1868] (read 2020)

5. Kafka: The Castle [1926] (read 2020)

6. James: Turn of the Screw [1898] (read 2020)

7. Shakespeare: King Lear [1608] (read 2020)

8. Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra [1883] (read 2020)

9. Bible: Genesis/Job/Song of Solomon (read 2021)

10. Aristophanes: Clouds [423 BCE] / Wasps [422 BCE] / Birds [414 BCE] (read 2021)

11. Sophocles: Antigone [ BCE] / Philoctetes [ BCE] (read 2021)

12. Euripides: Medea [431 BCE] / Hippolytus [428 BCE] / Bacchae [405 BCE] (read 2021)

13. Apuleius: The Golden Ass [170 CE] (to be read 2021)

14. Dante: Inferno/Purgatorio/Paradiso [1320] (in progress: 2021 via other Meetups)

15. Spenser: Faery Queene (1st book only) [1590] (to be read 2021)

16. Swift: Gulliver’s Travels [1726] or A Tale of a Tub [1704] (to be read 2021)

17. Voltaire: Zadig [1747] (to be read 2021)

18. Lewis, M.G.: The Monk: A Romance [1796] (to be read 2021)

19. de Sade: Juliette [1801] (to be read 2021)

20. Hoffman, E.T.A.: Selected Stories [1810s] (to be read 2021)

21. Shelley: Frankenstein [1818] (to be read 2021)

22. Gogol: Diary of a Madman [1835]

23. Balzac: Girl with the Golden Eyes [1835]

24. Poe: Collected Stories [1830s-40s]

25. Bronte: Wuthering Heights [1847]

26. Hawthorne: Collected Short Stories [1830-40s]

27. Melville: Bartleby, the Scrivener [1856] /The Confidence Man [1857]

28. Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1886]

29. Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray [1890]

30. Verne: Mysterious Island [1875]

31. H.G. Wells: Island of Dr. Moreau [1896]

32. Zamayatin: We [1924]

33. Woolf: Orlando [1928]

34. Lovecraft: Collected Stories [1920-30s]

35. O’Conner: Wise Blood [1952]

36. Golding: Lord of the Flies [1954] / The Inheritors [1955]

37. Burroughs: Naked Lunch [1959]

38. Burgess: A Clockwork Orange [1962]

39. Pynchon: Crying of Lot 49 [1964]

40. Le Guin: Left Hand of Darkness [1969]

41. ???

Upcoming events (2)

[ONLINE] de Sade: Justine: or the Misfortunes of Virtue [1791] 1 of 2, pp 3-129.

Best known today as the eponym of “sadism,” Donation-Alphonse-François, Marquis de Sade, was, among other things, a French nobleman, revolutionary politician, philosopher, writer, libertine, and prisoner, in various institutions, including the Bastille, for 32 of his 74 years. The 1797 “revised” publication of Justine resulted in his arrest in 1801, without charges, his imprisonment, without trial, and eventual confinement in the Charenton insane asylum for the last 12 years of his life. Let’s see for ourselves what the fuss was all about, and if his notorious scribbling was worth the two centuries of infamy that followed.

Join us for the first of two sessions as we explore de Sade's philosophical justifications for the depravity heaped upon the virtuous Justine. Note the reference to Voltaire in the opening pages of the story.

Sunday, October 3, 2021, 10am - 12pm PDT.

Please read to page 129 (Oxford World's Classics edition) and the paragraph ending with,

"The monotony of my stay there would convey itself to my story, and so it seems best to move immediately thereafter to the event that finally got me out of this foul cesspool."

If reading the PDF (see below), search for the similar phrase "ghastly sewer" to find your stopping point in the middle of section 23.

Recommended Edition:
Sade. Justine or the Misfortunes of Virtue. Translated by John Phillips. New York: Oxford Univ. Press., 2012. ISBN:[masked]. Used: $13+

Bookfinder: https://www.bookfinder.com
Search via ISBN: for "[masked]"

Free PDF: https://altexploit.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/4322115-marquis-de-sade-justine-in-english-translation.pdf

Also available from public libraries.

To attend this online Meetup, RSVP here and then, at start time, paste the following URL into your browser: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83811364123?

2021 Schedule (subject to change):
Oct 3: de Sade: Justine [1791] ISBN:[masked] [1st session]
Oct 17: de Sade: Justine [1791] ISBN:[masked] [2nd session]
Oct 31: Lewis: The Monk [1794] ISBN:[masked] [1st session]
Nov 14: Lewis: The Monk [1794] ISBN:[masked] [2nd session]
Nov 28: Hoffmann: Stories [1817] ISBN:[masked] [1-2 sessions]
Dec: Shelley: Frankenstein [1818] ISBN:[masked] [2 sessions]

Please note: Under the Los Angeles County COVID-19 Safer-At-Home order, we will continue to meet on Zoom at 10 AM alternate Sundays. We will return to Tender Greens once the order is modified to allow such cafe gatherings.

PARKING [for hybrid events]
Broxton Parking Lot [2 hours free then $1.5/20minutes].
Free street parking south of Wilshire Blvd [Sundays only]

[ONLINE] Sade: Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue [1791] 2nd of 2, p. 129-End

Our second and final[?] sampling of “sadism,” as disseminated by Donation-Alphonse-François, Marquis de Sade, who was, among other things, a French nobleman, revolutionary politician, philosopher, writer, libertine, and prisoner, in various institutions, including the Bastille, for 32 of his 74 years. The 1797 “revised” publication of Justine resulted in his arrest in 1801, without charges, his imprisonment, without trial, and eventual confinement in the Charenton insane asylum for the last 12 years of his life. Let’s see for ourselves what the fuss was all about, and if his notorious scribbling was worth the two centuries of infamy that followed.

Join us for the second of two sessions as we explore de Sade's philosophical justifications for the depravity heaped upon the virtuous Justine among others.

Sunday, October 17, 2021, 10am - 12pm PDT.

For our second session with Justine, please read from page 129 (Oxford World's Classics edition) and the paragraph beginning with,

"I was not expected at supper on this first day, but merely called upon to spend the night with Dom Clement."

-to the end of the novel -plus read the Explanatory Notes if desired.

Recommended Edition:
Sade. Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue. Translated by John Phillips. New York: Oxford Univ. Press., 2012. ISBN:[masked]. Used: $13+

Bookfinder: https://www.bookfinder.com
Search via ISBN: for "[masked]"

Free PDF: https://altexploit.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/4322115-marquis-de-sade-justine-in-english-translation.pdf

Also available from public libraries.

To attend this online Meetup, RSVP here and then, at start time, paste the following URL into your browser: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83811364123?

2021 Schedule (subject to change):
Oct 3: de Sade: Justine [1791] ISBN:[masked] [1st session]
Oct 17: de Sade: Justine [1791] ISBN:[masked] [2nd session]
Oct 31: Lewis: The Monk [1794] ISBN:[masked] [1st session]
Nov 14: Lewis: The Monk [1794] ISBN:[masked] [2nd session]
Nov 28: Hoffmann: Stories [1817] ISBN:[masked] [1-2 sessions]
Dec: Shelley: Frankenstein [1818] ISBN:[masked] [2 sessions]

Please note: Under the Los Angeles County COVID-19 Safer-At-Home order, we will continue to meet on Zoom at 10 AM alternate Sundays. We will return to Tender Greens once the order is modified to allow such cafe gatherings.

PARKING [for hybrid events]
Broxton Parking Lot [2 hours free then $1.5/20minutes].
Free street parking south of Wilshire Blvd [Sundays only]

Past events (57)

[ONLINE] Voltaire: Zadig [1747]/Candide [1759]

Online event

Photos (91)