Tuesday, 20 December 2011


organising the word


                                                   cori stewart and writers of Bundaberg, Queensland
I had a wonderful and fascinating time in Australia. These are the rest of my blogposts for Arts Queensland
The second meeting I chaired at the State Library was for literature and cultural organisations.
Back in the UK I’ve talked to lots of literature organizations about their unique position in the bookscape, urging them to seize the full potential of this moment of radical change, but not feeling too convinced they will.
My gut instinct is that Queensland really is capable of leading the way into this brave new world.
This is a huge State, home to a good number of writers of quality working across a range of genres including poetry, children’s books, literary, speculative, romance and crime writing, graphic novels, poetry on the page and in performance, Indigenous Australian storytelling and memoir. Where other cities may have a stronger literary infrastructure and heritage, Brisbane has ambitious strategies for cultural development and the will to stimulate writing that reaches out to real readers in Queensland, the nation and the world.
The economic dominance of the USA is waning and sadly the UK appears to be sliding into oblivion. Australia is primed to play a major role in the new world arising. Like I said, this is a moment to shake off our habits and look at the best way now to do what we really think matters, but old habits die hard and change is never easy.
Futureproofing the book involves providing tools for the multiplicity of publishing options made possible by the web, from multimedia apps to print on demand production. Mentoring is needed to help individuals find the skills, advisors and collaborators that they need to pick the best route to readers and income for them. Pitching sessions help train writers to present ideas to publishers, games makers, film producers. Crowd funding sites allow writers to present planned books and ask for donations and/or collaborators to work with on realizing them.
A big idea emerged: for a geo location project so that wherever you go in Queensland you can pick up stories from the cloud chosen to be read in your specific location. And we discussed how knowing that funding might be available for translation would be a real spur to writers and publishers to broaden their horizons and make work with more overseas readers in mind.
Measuring the word
My third meeting was with members of the State of Writing group to discuss in particular how we can best evaluate and quantify activities across the sector.
I don’t want to be gloomy but the UK’s descent into austerity is worth reflecting on. With a change of government, overnight those winning arguments for the arts were cast aside. Anything not deemed utterly essential is being cut, along with the agencies that exist to argue their importance. Why fund organizations that tell you how criminal it is to cut other funds? Axe them first and nip protest in the bud seems to be the policy.
As the pundits talk about the UK entering a ‘lost decade’ of stagnation and dwindling global influence, the importance of strategies like this one is proved ever more important. Cultural capital doesn’t rely on bankers and bonds; the value of the Beatles and Shakespeare endure. And the viral spread of cultural phenomena reminds us that global success is never more than a click away.
When I ran Booktrust, with a portfolio of very different projects from literary prizes to the Bookstart books for babies scheme, we talked about whether the aim of our work was to make more booktime – could we measure all our activities in terms of the amount and depth of time for reading that we generated in people’s lives?
A children’s literature centre could be a good thing for Queensland, but what would convince someone who didn’t give a damn about books for kids that this could be an economical engine for improving literacy, generating social harmony, attracting a few more tourists and perhaps even some votes?
At the meeting we explored the pros and cons of economic and social arguments for the arts, the relative merits of performance indicators, statistics, academic research and anecdotal evidence to create a winning case. All agreed on the need for a coherent narrative across the sector.
I picture a structure of tubes, taps and reservoirs which we could stand over, tinkering with faucets and flows to ensure that as literacy levels increase, the pool of creative readers fills and this in turn leads to booksales rising. If the flow of cash is reduced, how can least damage be done to the whole waterworks?
In hard times we can use cheap, digital means to create resilient networks making life on a shoestring worth living. When more resources on the table we know how to lobby for them – and how best to divide the spoils.

Romancing Bundaberg

Chris Meade, founder of if:books UK, meets with writers in Bundaberg…
An energetic group of writers gathered at Bundaberg library for coffee, cake and heated debate. The group, many of whom are successful authors of genre fiction, took some convincing that the State really was prepared to promote and reward romance, crime and speculative fiction as well as the literary. They also showed ample evidence of the economic potential of these forms.
This group loved the idea of the geo-located stories project but suggested the addition of a ‘buy’ button, so having heard a sample, users could download the whole book – at a price. This kind of story map would also be a wonderfully unifying scheme. Here you could find Indigenous storytellers, all kinds of published poetry, literary and genre fiction, self published and ‘amateur’ writing from emerging authors, even contributions from schoolchildren.
A fear of being overlooked out here in the regions was tempered with respect for the outreach work of Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) and excitement about social media as a means to connect across country. A lot of time is spent blogging, tweeting but these were also new writerish skills that opened up new income streams as trainers and community managers.
Before setting off for Bundaberg I had looked in on Avid Reader, the West End bookshop which has frequently featured in these meetings as a vital hub for local writers – some of whom it employs – and the centre of a big community of readers. I loved the shop, its performance space, café, burgeoning stock of books and even some rather classy Kindle and iPad covers on the counter. Having watched the decline in UK highstreet bookselling, I fear for the future of their shop – but these strategic meetings make it crystal clear that the book love, knowledge and network which Avid embodies is the life blood of any strategy; let it pump through the networked veins of all Queensland. 
Meanwhile in Brisbane and Bundaberg, festivals for writers and readers were praised as one enduring means to stimulate whatever bookiness the future holds, be it borrowing, buying, downloading, writing, publishing, producing, reading, sharing, dreaming…


Monday, 12 December 2011


THE HOUSE OF STORIES

A COLLABORATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP
LEADING TO THE PRODUCTION OF A NEW KIND of
if:book 
WITH
ROMESH GUNESEKERA & CHRIS MEADE
AWARD WINNING NOVELIST                     DIGITAL WRITER

SUNDAYS 19th Feb and 4th March 2012: 11.00-16.00
IF:BOOK CAFÉ IN HORNSEY LIBRARY, N8

The Library will be the setting for a group of interwoven stories involving famous characters from other books, famous writers, librarians, readers, users of the library. DAY ONE will include writing exercises to generate ideas; a visit to the book stack to choose a book to inspire you; working alone and with others on stories and characters
TWO WEEKS to work on your stories with other members online
DAY TWO pulling stories together, editing and enhancing; designing the digital and print elements,

LIMITED PLACES AVAILABLE.  Open to all, but when you book please send an example of your writing (no more than 1,000 words) and a letter about your interest in collaboration and digital production.

THE WORKSHOP is for writers at all levels of experience and we also welcome those with related skills such as song writing, art, video, web design etc.

ROMESH GUNESEKERA is  the author of  Reef, (shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize), The Sandglass, (winner of the inaugural BBC Asia Award), Heaven’s Edge, Monkfish Moon, (both New York Times Notable Books of the Year) and The Match, published in 2006.  He has run highly acclaimed writing workshops around the world.
Granta Books relaunched his first three books in September 2011 and Bloomsbury will be publishing his new novel, The Prisoner of Paradise, in February 2012.

CHRIS MEADE is the Director of if:book the think and do tank exploring the future of the book in the digital age, an author of plays, comedy, blogs and digital literature including www.insearchoflosttim.net , and was previously CEO of Booktrust and the Poetry Society.

HOW MUCH?
Participant fees:  £95 for both workshops, or £60 a session.
payable in advance.








one to watch at if:book australia


It's been fantastic catching up with Kate Eltham and Simon Groth of if:book Australia and the Queensland Writers'  Centre. They have ambitious plans and it's not surprising to see Kate listed in this Christmas list of names to watch in Australian culture over the next year:
Here's what Arts Hub has to say:
The coming year will be a big one in the arts. We start afresh with new seasons from all the major theatre companies, we’ll see festivals soar and some crash, and we’ll see Australians make names from themselves both locally and internationally. Here, we have broken down the top 10 faces to keep an eye on in 2012.
1. Kate Eltham, Queensland Writers Centre CEO 
Kate Eltham is the Chief Executive Officer of the Queensland Writers Centre and has a passion for the new opportunities presented by the digital age through the if:book Australia centre, which focuses specifically on excellence in digital literature. Kate’s professional interest in the future of publishing, e-books and mobile content as well as digital publishing opportunities make her and the QWC ones to watch in 2012.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

writing in queensland


I'm off to Australia tomorrow - which is nice - and, before speaking at a conference in Melbourne, I'll be working in Brisbane, at consultation meetings with writers, creatives, publishers and all sorts of wordpeople to help in the creation of a Writers Strategy for Queensland. I feel very fortunate to be involved in this, and looking forward to being back in a part of the world with more optimism about literature development and creative industries. 

Here's my first post for the Arts Queensland blog. I'll post others here too and welcome any comments from the UK and elsewhere too.  

Date: 14 November 2011 

Over the next couple of months, AQ with Chris Meade, Founder of if:books UK, followed by Queensland poet Graham Nunn, will be consulting with the Queensland writing sector about its future direction. Chris Meade sets the stage in this blog.
My son moved to Sweden last year. Until recently all I knew of Sweden was Ikea and snow. But then I bought  that Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book, travelled there through fiction and now I’ve inhabited the streets of Stockholm, pictured its scenery, tasted its coffee.
Last year I also met (this time for real) the team from Pub:lit, a dynamic  print on demand company based in Stockholm. They described how the success of the Millennium books has enlivened literary culture and built confidence that Scandinavian fiction can reach out to a wider world. Of course Swedes must also feel as bored of Millennium fever as the Brits are of Potter mania. No doubt arguments rage about which writers are better and what’s wrong with the author’s worldview; promoters will balk at the bleak and violent portrait Larsson paints of his nation… but Sweden is on the map in a whole new way, and the infrastructure of writing, publishing and literature promotion has been rejuvenated.
No strategy can create great writing, but it can provide a fertile setting from which exciting writing might emerge, it can seek out and promote talent that may currently be undervalued and overlooked; and it can use what’s there to encourage a reading culture in schools and across the community. Most importantly in 2011 it can help literary culture not just adapt to digital culture but seize on its creative and commercial potential now that we’re all Amplified Authors, able to use our laptops and mobiles to broadcast our words to the world.
When I visited Queensland last year I visited the brand new library at Cooroy on the Sunshine Coast. It brought home that no longer do we need an office in a capital city to be at the cultural heart of things. I see no reason why Queensland shouldn’t build a global reputation as a centre for a new model of publishing and writer development, attracting income from the entire English speaking world, fostering work that builds on what’s unique about where you live – from  its ancient storytelling traditions to new digital infrastructure.
Not long ago communications between Australia and the UK involved airmail letters or quick calls down fuzzy and expensive phone lines. Recently I spent an hour talking about the consultation with Cori Stewart during a relaxed hour-long video conference held for free on Skype. I’m looking forward to being in Queensland for real, but welcome your thoughts via this blog anytime, or by email at chris@futureofthebook.org.uk.
Chris Meade

A beginning, a middle, but no end in sight



As we announce the shortlist for the 2011 New Media Writing Prize, Lisa Gee explores the unbound possibilities of digital-era fiction


“A book is bounded. It has a beginning and an ending and a discoverable way of knowing that you’ve read the whole thing.” Theo Gray is the author of The Elements, the elegant iPad book app that launched simultaneously with Apple’s device and founder and creative director of digital book publisher Touch Press. He’s offering his definition of a book and explaining the differences between books and websites. A major one for Gray – a mathematically-inclined visionary who speaks in flowcharts – is that you finish a book. Websites, like space, can go on forever...."


TO READ the rest of Lisa Gee's article from the Independent on Sunday - and see her video featuring if:book and many others, CLICK HERE


Oh and the winner is....www.lossofgrasp.com 
Read more about the judging process on The Literary Platform

Monday, 28 November 2011

story cloud

if:book is working on the Discover Centre's project for the Cultural Olympiade with Winged Chariot!
Imagine the humiliation of entering the new year with nothing Olympic in the forward plan!
We ran a workshop for children and parents exploring stories on line as part of the bid and will be involved in planning writing activities around the stories in the cloud. Here's more details:

STORYCLOUD

21 Jun 2012 - 9 Sep 2012

A unique digital project bringing together authors, illustrators and children to create stories. StoryCloud will reach 500,000 children in their homes, schools and libraries through digital storytelling. Across the UK children will write stories in response to specially commissioned tales and illustrations created by leading children’s authors and illustrators. Twelve brand-new stories have been commissioned for the project: six from leading children’s authors and poets, and six from east London children. Twelve outstanding illustrators will create interactive digital pictures that children can explore.

The children’s stories will reflect the diversity of their communities. For example, an Albanian folk tale or Bengali story that has been handed down through generations. Each week a new story will be released, one a week for the 12 weeks of London 2012 Festival.
Each story will have a challenge or provocation to motivate children to create their own response through writing and drawing. Children will be invited to send their stories to Discover and each week a selection will be displayed on an online gallery.
Children will be able to browse through a carousel of stories, tap and click to select one, then read, listen or play with the story. Children will also be able to add or work on new stories with writers and illustrators.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

does the fate of bookshops rest on the fate of books?

GUEST POST BY DR CAROLINE HAMILTON

Recently, I went to Berwick St in Soho with a DJ friend of mine who was in London for a few days. Once hailed as having the greatest concentration of record shops in Britain – back in the 1990s Berwick St had more than 20 independent stores – the strip was even celebrated on the cover of an album by Oasis. But, when I visited a few months ago, the scene was a far cry from those ‘glory’ days.

A scant few audiophiles sifted through overflowing racks of secondhand records and CDs. Signs advertised albums for 10p. I politely flicked through bent cardboard and cracked plastic, feigning interest while my friend searched for any loot he might strip from the wreckage. It took me only a few minutes to abandon any interest.
I was struck by how relatively quickly the concept of “browsing” had moved from shelf to screen. Through no fault of its own, this record store had become a room full of junk.  While I waited for my friend I asked the assistant for his predictions on the future. “It won't be long before all these places around here will be replaced by a string of coffee shops."
This struck a particular chord with me because only a few days earlier the research partner I have been working with here in the UK, if:Book, announced its plans to transform a project we’d been working on together, an experimental community based bookshop, into – you guessed it – a coffee shop.
Well, not just a coffee shop, but an experiment in finding new ways to attract people to visit spaces where, for a modest expenditure they can enjoy a variety of reading experiences. In this case it happens to be a rather unpretentious café above the local library. Here there’s lots of light, some large tables to work or read and wifi. There’s also a wall of books for sale (a mix of big name and local self published products), and community noticeboards which advertise, amongst other things, courses in digital literacy, book making and creative writing. So, it’s not just a coffee shop but a literary social space.
If Berwick St left me wondering: are bookshops – spaces easily as beloved by their public as record stores once were – eventually to suffer a similar fate? The ifBook experiment ‘cafe/bookshop in the library’ made me speculate on whether this might be a possible solution.
In his book Last Shop Standing: Whatever Happened to Record Shops? Graham Jones attributes the closure of independent stores to the new market landscape in which record companies put online retailers and supermarkets ahead of independent outfits. But corporate greed and agglomeration are only one side of the story: customers have turned away from traditional shopping experiences in favour of online services. Even the local video rental store has now vanished from our streets because of these changes in consumer behavior.

When we talk about the current challenges facing bookshops, there is implicit in this a concern that what such struggles really demonstrate is that books are becoming less relevant in our everyday lives. But is this necessarily the reality?
Research I’ve been working on rather gamely claims to consider what might happen in ‘the bookshop of the future’ and many of these blog musing draw upon the qualitative research I’ve conducted over the past 6 months with seven small, independent London-based book retailers and their customers. Based on what I’ve learned through these conversations and observations I want to propose that, contrary to logic, a bookshop, even without (many) books on the shelves really can be more than ‘just a room’? to its customers.
The idea that bookshops have important symbolic value as well as a commercial role is evident in any analysis of popular media. In books and films the bookshop also regularly features as site for charming and whimsical personal encounters (think of 84 Charing Cross Rd, or films such as You’ve Got Mail or Notting Hill). Bookshops are rather like holidays, not only because they are associated with relaxation and escape but because, as with taking a holiday, what we value most of all about them are the affective associations they engender. Bookshops are spaces for their patrons’ fantasies about their preferred engagements with their preferred kinds of literature. They evoke feelings. This being the case the idea of the bookshop is arguably more valued than the actual store on any particular street corner.
This popular discourse contributes to consumer opinion on the value of bricks and mortar book stores. And so, even as sales of iPads and Kindles grow every year, and more customers turn to online shopping, bookshops are as beloved (if less patronized) as ever. In Laura Miller’s study of American independent bookshops she reflects on the cultural value that attends the work of the bookseller, suggesting that “in the valorization of the work of the bookseller there is a clear sense that books are exceptionally moral objects deserving of protection from [destructive] forces.”
This is why the loss of our bookshops is greeted with even more concern and scandalized outrage than the disappearance of retailers such as record stores or other high street retailers because access to books is understood to contribute so much to a healthy society. 
Miller observes that independent stores have worked hard to harness the sense of community and being ‘in touch’ that customers anticipate, using this to set them apart from their conglomerate competition. These activities allow small, local stores to account for their undiscounted prices, and also give customers that much desired sense of being ‘in touch’. 
But, however nice it is to have a ‘sense of community’ this doesn’t address the realities of our daily habits. I have no doubt that you and I both support the notion of community, we both value the democracy engendered by literacy, we both want local small businesses and local artists to succeed. We both like nice coffee. We both also buy books online. I myself admit that I do almost all of my book purchasing online — partly these are ebooks for the ease of travel and research, but also because printed books cost a lot of money. Customers I spoke to expressed similar sentiments. They enjoyed browsing but often returned home to buy a book online at a discount.  Or download it.
There is unquestionable convenience to the online system, but also, some new pleasures. Customers I spoke with told me of the value of the internet as a research tool for reading, of the pleasure and positive feeling of finding out about books via online networks. Here’s a typical comment: “I confess I get most of my recommendations for reading these days via things my friends post online; on Facebook, or Twitter, whatever. Maybe it’s a link to a book review of something new and I think, oh yeah, that looks interesting…Before I know it, it’s on its way to my house.”
It’s not just that interesting things aren’t happening inside small bookshops, but these days much of it isn’t traditional book buying and selling.
In the sites where I’ve been conducting field work I’ve noticed some small but significant changes. The internet and digital social networks are being used not just to link people with common allegiances who are geographically distant but also proximate. Several of the stores I work with understand that the majority of their online network is locally based and tailor their digital identity to reflect this. So for instance, one store I visited maintained a popular Twitter identity that kept followers up to date with day-to-day activities in store, from the boredom of the daily commute, to frustrations ordering stock or indecision about lunchtime sandwich selections. Even if you’re not in-store it’s easy to keep up to date with the daily life of the bookshop. This store recognized that it wasn’t reading books or critique of books that suited social networks, but being around them in a very quotidian way that was the key. This same store also manages a slate of after-hour events that have almost nothing to do with books (quiz nights, sewing classes, music, comedy and most recently even an Avon evening). These cases illustrate how the old idea of community support and being ‘in touch’ can match with the immediacy and novelty of digital networks.
As definitions of “reading” and “readers” have expanded with digital communications its very like that the bookstore’s ideal customer might not even be someone who would describe themselves as having that traditional “passion for books.” Yet, they find their social and cultural tastes and allegiances well catered to by the store and its wider network. These are the book store’s new potential customers.
Bookstores need to take greater account of this change, emphasizing their role as social spaces for people, rather than store houses for stock. The bookstore’s continued ability to generate affection, even among those of us whose actions end up undermining it, perhaps speaks less to our love of books and reading and more to our desire to feel ‘in touch’ with our local environment, via the symbolic value books and bookshops represent. Bookshops need to give people ways to connect online and reasons to leave the house that don’t rely solely on the sale of their primary product. To survive, bookshops need to do something many record stores did not, that is, reinvent themselves as physical destinations within a broader network for reading, rather than being only in the business of book selling.

Dr Caroline Hamilton has been visiting the UK for 6 months as part of an Endeavour Fellowship investigating how digital culture is affecting the work of bricks-and-mortar bookshops. You can read more about her work at: www.printedmattersproject.blogspot.com 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

stuff & things


NO READING ALONE 4

OXFORD: The Hub

FRI 2ND DEC, 2011 7.30pm

Music, poetry, science, literature, comedy and technology are all on the agenda as 'No Reading Alone' moves to Oxford's city centre for another night of fantastically talented people sharing their passions and knowledge for your entertainment.

£5 tickets: all proceeds will be going to Schools Plus and Book Trust. Bookish charities for the most bookish of events.



Granta  magazine is launching an animated graphic novel inspired by Roberto Bolaño's short story in Granta 117: Horror 'The Colonel's Son.' A girl gets bitten by a zombie; the boy he loves tries to save her; the father of the boy, in turn, tries to save him. Bloodshed spreads across the city, as one by one witnesses become victims . . . and then killers. Click here to start spreading the contagion. 






Thursday, 10 November 2011

dear readers...



We are working on a relaunch of the IFSOFLO network which aims to provide inspiration and practical tips to writers,
literature organisations, teachers of English interested in exploring digital possibilities for literature.  
We want to know:
What has been your best experience of digital means to make, teach or read literature?
(you're welcome to tell us about your own projects and activities)
AND
What are the biggest challenges you face currently in making best use of digital for literary purposes? 
(Please include the apparently trivial as well as the major ones - they all matter!) 

PLEASE answer these questions in not more than 200 words 
You can send us a video of you answering them if you wish. 
We'll post responses on our in-the-process-of-being-refurbished site.
AND THEN we'll seek to find the simplest and best possible ways to help you with the challenges you face. 

One other question:
We are thinking of moving the community to the IFBOOK facebook page. Do you think that's a good idea?

All the best,

Chris and Lisa

Chris Meade, Lisa Gee
if:book UK 

Visit The If:book Cafe & ifsoflo network at: http://ifsoflo.ning.com

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

if:book cafe update



The Unlibrary space at Hornsey Library is soon to be used for other purposes and we’ve decided to rename the café upstairs THE IF:BOOK CAFÉ, our future of the book place and a new kind of space for reading and writing. The Hornsey Unlibrary project, founded by Anke Holst and I with encouragement from Diana Edmunds, is ended, and now at IF:BOOK we’re working with Robin Stevenson, who runs the catering side of the café as a sole trader, Big Green Books who supply our book stock, and the wonderful staff and users of Hornsey Library to build a lovely place to hang out and a sustainable creative community of writers, readers, artists and all kinds of digital makers. We’ll be launching our first if:book reading experiences early next year.  
Please excuse us as we reconfigure things on the site and in the space over the next few weeks.

Follow the Café on twitter at @ifbookcafe and join the If:bookcafe page on Facebook

I’m delighted to be working with Lisa Gee, author and ex-editor of the Orange Prize for Fiction website. Among other projects Lisa will be helping with our input to the Young Poets Network
Meanwhile Sasha Hoare, filmmaker and associate with loads of experiences in literature and education work, will be helping us with our Stories To Touch project with Winged Chariot and London schools. Kati Rynne has moved on and we wish her all the best with her theatre career.

MEANWHILE in December Chris is off to Australia, not only to speak at the OWOVM.COM conference in Melbourne but also to run a series of consultation sessions as part of the creation of a Writing Strategy for Queensland. Thanks to if:book Australia for putting us in touch. This is a wonderful opportunity to participate in an important and forward looking initiative.  

if:book is also delighted that we'll be working with the Discover Childrens' Story Centre and Winged Chariot on their Story Cloud project,  as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad London Festival. 







schopenhauer and the human condition



Alongside our weekly meet up hour (11-12 on Tuesdays) and the Song Making workshop on Wednesdays, (11.30-12.45),  we're launching a weekly learning circle at the if:book cafe in Hornsey Library, hosted by David Barry, suitable for anyone interested in the meaning of everything. 

Contact David dot Barry at Mac dot com if you'd like to join, 

The starting point is A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION TO SCHOPENHAUER by Christopher Janaway which will soon be for sale in the if:bookshop. 
Participants will be expected to read set texts and contribute constructively to the discussion.   

David Barry writes: 
 
A learning circle, is a group of people who come together regularly to explore a topic. (see note) While the group is facilitated and conducted by a person with some expert knowledge of the area it is called a "circle" rather than a seminar or lecture. So  everyone in the group is encouraged and expected to contribute. The Philosophy of Schopenhauer is especially suited to this treatment. This is because despite the scope of  his ambitious work - he tries to explain EVERYTHING - and it being firmly situated in the tradition of Western Philosophy, his concerns focus on our experience of being human. His unremitting analysis of how we actually experience life (he contends), as being full of endless strife has earned him the  reputation of  being the great pessimist. But its not all a grim diagnosis. (Although he did go on a bit. It is no surprise to discover he influenced Beckett) As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out :-

"Schopenhauer in fact advocated ways — via artistic, moral and ascetic forms of awareness — to overcome a frustration-filled and fundamentally painful human condition. Since his death in 1860, his philosophy has had a special attraction for those who wonder about life's meaning, along with those engaged in music, literature, and the visual arts."

An extraordinarily  well read man in a number of languagesSchopenhauer applies his insights across the whole range of the arts. (He concludes, incidentally, that music is the highest of the arts.) In effect, in one person, he combined expertise in a number of subjects.  A learning circle is therefore a good way to study him, as such is the range of the application of his work, and its reliance on personal insights we gain through the mere process of being alive, that everyone can have something to contribute.

Format of the Group

The Group will meet every Thursday morning  at 11 am, for an hour,  in Hornsey Library. There will be a short introduction by the facilitator, and discussion will then commence around a topic. After the first couple of sessions the direction the group takes will depend on the interests of the members. For the first two sessions the topic will be introduction to Schopenhauer. There will be a reading list with three or four books on it. I have just learnt that a "Very Short Introduction" to Schopenhauer is now available and I will see if I can get a copy quickly, as that may turn out to be a really good basic text -I have seen others in that series - which one could reasonably expect everyone to obtain, and read. The other three texts are "The World as Will and Representation" (Vol 1) Arthur Schopenhauer, Kant's prolegomena in an e edition I have just found, and Bryan Magee's excellent book on Schopenhauer.

The Facilitator

David Barry has a degree in Philosophy from Trinity College, University of Dublin, where he first studied Schopenhauer. He has experience as a teacher of adults having taught Organisational Psychology at Birkbeck College, London, and  Management for the Open Business School. He has never taught philosophy before so this will be an new experience. When he first encountered Schopenhauer he was fascinated by the philosopher's vision, ambition, and his metaphysics, and the way his thought threw light on the crucially important Kant. (Kant being both important and hugely obscure whereSchopenhauer is clear.)  Some decades later, he has begun to suspect, that Schopenhauer in his discussion of the human condition was on to something.