Organizing a Literary Evening
Adult Friends Reading Aloud to Each Other
This guide is based on the experience of Mr. and Mrs. David Trumbull who have organized pleasant literary evenings with friends in Boston since 2001. The format is simple.
Everyone must arrive on time and stick to the five-minute limit on the readings. If the group meets at 7:00 p.m. for general conversation and starts reading at 7:30 p.m. five persons (half of the circle) times five minutes each, plus allowing another five minutes for the group to talk about each reading, brings us up to nearly 8:30. Then we take a 30 minute mid-way break. If you then start reading at 9:00 it'll be around 10:00 when the last person finishes. In other words ten people each reading for five minutes adds up, with discussion and breaks, to be a full three-hour evening of entertainment.
Food and Drink
We've found through experience that reading groups are most effective when they are "fun taken seriously". The ancient Greeks and Romans held their philosophical discussions at dining and drinking parties. In fact, the word symposium, which now means a gathering for scholarly exchange, originally, in Greek, meant getting together to drink wine. Wine or beer can relax the participants, loose their tongues, and generally engender camaraderie. But, as we all know, too much alcohol dulls the senses. We suggest that if you drink at your discussion, you stick to beer or wine in moderation. And lay off the hard stuff. Likewise, the food, if any, served during the discussion should be light. If you want to have dinner together, dine first and then take up the reading after dinner. A good rule to follow is that of Benjamin Franklin:
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
When the Trumbulls organize a literary evening whether at their home or at the home of others in the group they ask each participant to bring a bottle of wine or tonic (soda for non-New Englanders) in order to spare the hosts the entire cost of the evening. The host provide snacks but the participants are welcome to brings snacks too if they wish.
The Themes and the Readings
We have a list of selected authors for reading aloud.
The Trumbulls have maintained a record of every literary evening they organized which shows the date, location, theme, partcipants, and readings. The list is also indexed by participant and partially index by author. To see the historical record click here.