When I studied English Lit at university, I use to daydream about being a fly on the wall in the Pre-Raphaelites’ house, at the dinner parties between the Shellys and Byron, or in the cafes of pre-Revolutionary Paris. Well, I’m a little late to the game, by a couple of centuries for those sorts of groups, and a couple of years for the new movement of literary salons.
Literay salons are where writers, bookworms and people in the industry meet for informal reading, banter and drinks. Less formal than book readings and book groups, the idea is simply to socialise with other bibiliophiles more than anything else. I’ve read some glowing articles about the Shoreditch House Book Salon amongst other places and I know friends who regularly go to Weegie Wednesday in Glasgow.
What appeals to me about these places is that in the age of the internet, where every interest and niche can be catered for by some obcsure group, people still bother to meet up face to face. Because of course it’s only face to face that we can really understand someone, with all the nuances of their voice and body language.
The second thing that intrigues me about these literary salons is mixing drinking with book-talk. Some people make an assumption that literature lovers go around drinking wine in turtle necks in posh wooden floored mansions (I admit I was one of those, the “Starter for Ten” fool with illusions of grandeur until proven otherwise). Or that conversation when out on a Saturday night should remain strictly in the realms of relationships, TV and the quality of the local beer.
Finally what interests me is that by mixing music, books, art and drinking, it appeals to a wider audience. Growing up, and still, I get embarrassed sometimes admitting I like fantasy and strange fiction. I end up calling it magic realism or surrealism, all entirely arbitrary names. At the end of the day it’s publishers and marketing that decided Haruki Murakami, and George Orwell were mainstream fiction but that Philip K. Dick was science fiction.
But now we can all come out of the closet! Kind of.