One of the purposes in setting up the Tree House was to counteract what I see as an increasing anti-intellectualism in our society. If you proclaim that Thomas Hardy is better than Dan Brown, and more worthwhile as a writer, you are accused of being a snob. If you use words of more than two syllables you are mocked for being clever. If you prefer The Bridge to The Voice as Saturday night viewing, with all those complicated subtitles, you are patronised, even by the BBC, whose remit is to go well beyond pandering to viewing figures and flogging stale programme formulae.
There is not a single regular programme about books on the BBC, let alone on other standard channels. This has long shocked me. Radio 4 serves us a little better, and I am deeply grateful (though even A Good Read is not what it was!), but while we have endless cookery shows, antiques shows, documentaries about all sorts of rubbish, books are given very short shrift. The Beeb should be leading the way.
So in our little corner of middle England, my plan was to promote the wonder of books, the importance of literature, the pleasure of reading, the civilising influence of reading, the lifechanging consequences of engaging with the ideas of the intelligent of this and past centuries. You can read as much Dan Brown as you like, but the Tree House is about much more than that – we want to promote serious engagement with serious literature, and in the desperate attempts simply to keep afloat financially that has been neglected.
So Thursday evenings for the next few weeks – maybe indefinitely! – will be set aside for people to come and have a cup of tea and discuss things literary. Not a book group in the usual sense, more a chance to discuss literature, to engage with others who love reading serious books, to think about what books (specific books) tell us and how they tell us what they tell us…and so on. I may occasionally invite speakers along. The shop will be open for general browsing, and the sofa area can be used for those who want to take part in discussions. We will simply stay open, and close at 9 if no one is around, and if people are around, we’ll close when they have had enough. Spread the word!
Thursday Salons at the Tree House. Oh yes.