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Friday, Jan 29th:


Coffee and more with 14 women and no culture hunting vultures
Friday, 29 January 2010 13:54

By David Young
One man and fourteen women. A teenage dream, Arabian nights or a mid-life challenge?

Laraine Chaplin
None of those alternatives were on my mind when I made my way to Exedra Books on Wednesday (Jan 27) to visit a group hosted by founder and moderator Laraine Chaplin. But I was apprehensive to the point of wondering how quickly I could excuse myself if I found a gaggle of what Dylan Thomas once called “culture hunting vultures”, nattering inanities about the New York Times best sellers that they found “oh so boring.”

I arrived with Panamanian timing, 20 minutes after the official start time, and found that the meeting was in full swing … swing being the operative word, fast moving, lively and entertaining.

In fact I had already missed three presentations and it was my loss. Far from inane chatter I was provided with an hour of intellectual stimulation as each participant took the floor to enunciate “Four authors and what they mean to me.”
Each presentation reflected a personal passion and hours of research to provide substance to the soliloquies.

One speaker chose four writers whose works had been banned, another concentrated on those who had bonded with local communities, another with those whose imagination had circled the world. Women’s issues, women writers, poets, politicians, historians, philosophers
all got their additional minutes of fame and tribute.

Plato was the earliest writer to be included, Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Marcia Marquez perhaps the most recent.

Others whose works were submitted included, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Bernard Shaw, Boris Pasternak, Gorbachev, Darwin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Winston Churchill, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Victor Hugo, Homer, Robert Frost and Jostein Gaarder.

Sadly I had to leave before the end, but not before the coffee break when I had the chance to chat with British born Laraine, who created the Arts and Books Circle now in its fourth year.

In a country where, for many reasons, reading is not a high priority, she awoke one morning with the idea of forming a book discussion group, but with a different flavor from those where everyone reads the same book and arrives to discuss its pros and cons.

She had a broader vision, reflected in the meeting I attended. From an initial group of six, the circle has grown to its present size, with room for more who want to get involved, share their views without pretensions and enjoy occasional guest presentations.

For me it was a pleasant and rewarding step back into the days of group tutorials, persuading the professor that you really knew what you were talking about, and arguing late into the night with your fellow students …. “I wept as I remembered how often you and I, had tired the sun with talking, and sent him down the sky.” Happy days indeed, but it was never 14 to one.

The experience is repeated at Exedra on the last Wednesday of each month at 9.45 a.m. It’s worth attending, but don’t imitate me. Arrive on time, and don’t miss the early offerings.



Books and art with flaire and music for all seasons
Monday, 07 June 2010 10:32

The Cultural Scene

“If you could study art with one great painter, past or present, who would it be and why? “ Now there’s a research project to stimulate your cultural genes.

And when you’ve worked that out: “bring an illustration of their work.”

This is part of the monthly “homework” for members of the Books and Art Circle, one of the most stimulating cultural groups in Panama, chaired by Laraine Chaplin. The projects are generally focused on books when each member of the circle makes her presentation on a personally selected piece of reading centering around a subject chosen by the coordinator. So instead of a dozen views on the same book, minds are opened to the possibilities of other approaches to the same theme.

A welcome change from the usual reading circle format.

Meetings of the group take place at that cultural and community nook, Exedra Books on Via Espana 9:45 a.m. start.

Until now the meetings have been held on the last Wednesday of each month, and the art presentation will be on Wednesday June 30. But starting July 29, meetings will be held on the last Thursday of the month.

For further information on how to join the group contact Larraine at . Sorry guys, ladies only, so you won’t get to show off that original Monet.


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