Wilton Library launches literary salon

Wilton Library is offering virtual programs on finding a job, cooking, and what happens to one's brain during stressful events like the pandemic.

Wilton Library is offering virtual programs on finding a job, cooking, and what happens to one’s brain during stressful events like the pandemic.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

In the age of 280 characters per thought how often does a person get to engage in an intellectual conversation? Add in the time constraints of working 9 to 5 and it’s probably not many.

For those who love literature, and would like to talk about it with other like-minded souls — Wilton Library is offering a new opportunity. It’s a literary salon to be offered on several Friday evenings throughout the year, beginning this Friday, Nov. 8, from 6 to 7 p.m.

The idea grew from a desire by Michael Bellacosa, the library’s community engagement manager, to expand the library’s literature programs so working people may participate.

“We offer great literature seminars on Thursday mornings,” he said, but those are only available to those who have free time during the day. “We got the opportunity with funding from a donor that enabled us to brink Mark Schenker of Yale to do a program on James Joyce.” That popular program was on Saturday afternoons.

That led to the idea of a casual literature program on Friday evenings “that doesn’t require any preparation, no reading in advance, no packet of materials,” Bellacosa said.

To kick off the evening, participants will watch a video of Yale Literature Professor Harold Bloom, author of “The Western Canon,” talking about why people should read the “great books.” Then, over wine and cheese, everyone will be invited to talk about reading great books.

Bellacosa calls it “intellectual socializing.”

“We’re tying to make it as casual and fun as possible,” Bellacosa said. With him for this inaugural evening will be Judson Scruton, well-known by library patrons for his frequent Thursday morning literature programs.

Centuries old

Salons — gatherings where people came to talk, often about the arts — are centuries old. “They mostly took place in peoples’ homes where people who were artists and writers talked about what they were working on and thinking about,” Bellacosa said. Among the most famous were the salons held in the 1920s by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas at the Paris apartment that drew the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and others.

The library is not alone in bringing back salons, many are popping up in other parts of the country and around the world.

Bellacosa said that in looking at the sign-ups so far, there are some who have attended the Thursday programs and some whose names are new to him. “That’s what I’m aiming at,” he said.

Registration for the program is strongly recommended by calling 203-762-6334 or visiting www.wiltonlibrary.org and clicking on “Events.”