One of the major events of the year for the Great Books Council of San Francisco is the spring weekend at the Asilomar Conference Center in Monterey, California, titled The Barbara McConnell Weekend at Asilomar in honor of a beloved Great Books leader. During the weekend there are discussions of poetry, a work of nonfiction, a work of theatre and a work of fiction. The beauty of the area is conducive to stimulating discussions and convivial parties.
In 2021 we hosted the event online via Zoom due to the pandemic. Kicking off the weekend on Friday evening was a selection of poems from John Donne, Louise Glück, Charles Simic, Yannis Ritsos, and Derek Walcott.
Niccolò Macchiavelli's The Prince got Saturday morning off to a rousing start, as we explored this seminal work on statesmanship and political power that has proven relevant for over four centuries.
In the evening we continued with a lesser-known but no less poignant novel from Kazuo Ishiguro. Never Let Me Go is a page-turning mystery that provides a thought-provoking and disturbing view of the future.
Our final, but no less intense, session was on Sunday morning with the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit by Margaret Edson, conceived from her hospital work experience. This session covered many of our familiar Shared Inquiry themes.
During Asilomar weekends in recent years we've discussed the plays The Possessed, The Iceman Cometh, Of Mice and Men, and The Piano Lesson; works of fiction Miguel Street, The Left Hand of Darkness, Cannery Row, and Seize the Day; and nonfiction works by C.P. Snow, W.E.B. Du Bois, John Steinbeck, and Alexander Hamilton; as well as selected poetry. To see a full list of what's been discussed during our 50+ years at Asilomar, please click this past discussion list.