‘I’ve been very honoured to be Patron of The Chichester Literary Society – and, in its earlier incarnation, The West Sussex Literary Society. The committee can always be relied on to produce a lively and varied programme of events, and the quality of the members ensures informed and intelligent discussion. At a time when the very existence of the book seems to be under threat, it is good to know there is at least one place – the CLS – where the love of literature is healthily thriving.’
‘As someone who attends the Society’s events whenever possible, I can happily say how much I appreciate meeting like-minded enthusiasts of literature. I delight in the range of monthly events organised by our committee, whether they are learned or light-hearted talks, visits or one of our lively social gatherings. The standard so often exceeds expectation. Visiting speakers never fail to impress on subjects as diverse as Blake and Tennyson, to the more contemporary Helene Hanff (of ’84 Charing Cross Road’ fame) and Dylan Thomas. Often I return home from meetings fired with enthusiasm for a new subject or a forgotten author, keen to read more widely. It has struck me, too, that there is a wealth of knowledge and experience across the membership which is shared and enjoyed by everyone. Without exaggeration, Society members are all such nice people and the monthly meetings and social activities ensure that time never drags.
The Society’s aim is to promote and organise literary and asscoiated events for the benefit of every member. It certainly achieves that, and more! And the modest fees are excellent value too. Since joining in 2004, I have widened my literary horizons and many members have become firm friends.
Among those who put ‘reading’ at or near the top of their list of spare-time pursuits, there is a tendency (it should be put no more strongly than that) to self-sufficiency. Held up against the vivid narrative and intriguing characters of a novel, real life can appear pale and flat. In enjoying the imagination, the wisdom and the way with words of a sympathetic author, we can feel a good measure of personal fulfilment. Few of us, however, have tripped so far down the path to total literary immersion and solitariness that we would say, as Vladimir Nabokov did in the preface to the screenplay of ‘Lolita’: ‘(there is) nothing in the world that I loathe more than group activity.’
So, whether you are agonizing over which English translation of ‘War and Peace’ you should read (and who could bear to spend all that time with the second-best translation?), or whether you are wondering how Alexander McCall Smith pulls out a plum every time he puts in his thumb, you should come along to the meetings of the Chichester Literary Society. You may not get the answer to your specific question; and yet, you may. What you surely will get, though, is a wide range of talks and visits and performances which you will enjoy in the company of other people with similar interests to yourself.