Our Long Anticipated 2015 Meeting: The Tokyo Jazz Cafe

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It’s been a while since we’ve met and, since this meeting will make something of a reunion, we’ve decided to mix business with pleasure. That is, we’re taking our small group off campus to the Tokyo Jazz Cafe, in Sydney’s east. It’s a quirky little place in Bondi Junction—part Ridley Scottesque, part Berkeley—and a zone in which one may indulge in a good range of cheap food, as well as sake. From what we understand, the owners are supportive of such pseudo-intellectual coteries as ours, and the atmosphere reminds Adam of the kind of writers’s meet-ups that Dick would have attended in his early days, perhaps around the Art Music years.

Date: 7 May, 7pm. Please get in touch by 5 May if you’d like to attend so that we can book a suitably commodious table.

Venue: Tokyo Jazz Cafe, Basement Shop 2, 51-53 Spring St Bondi Junction NSW 2022.

Readings:

  1. Dick, The Exegesis, Folder 22, 9, 8 (pages 429-478). Please contact us if you need help getting ahold of a copy of this book.
  2. Ted Hand, “The Zebra Principle.”
  3. Dick, “Beyond the Door.”

These folders are getting really interesting. Lots of strange postulates regarding living information and AI. One of the good things about The Exegesis is that it’s a collection of letters and diary entries, so one can pick it up at any point.

We look forward to hearing from new and old PKD readers alike!

Chris, Adam, and Pat

Our Seventh Meeting: Exegeting and Novel Reading at the University of Sydney

wk7posterFor our November meeting (which shall be our seventh), The PKD Reading Group will venture beyond its UNSW borderlands, arriving at the University of Sydney to join literary forces with the Novel Studies Reading Group, regular Thursday residents of the Rogers Room in The John Woolley Building. It will take place at the earlier-than-usual time of 4pm on this Thursday 6 November. (See poster at left for more information and contact details).

Putting Dick’s Exegesis under myriad sets of new pink beams, we’ll be studying a few of Dick’s folders alongside Margaret Cohen’s article on the literary archive. As an inquiry–or, better, a genealogy–of that old question of what constitutes worthy literature, Cohen’s piece considers what, if anything, there is left to do “between” (quoting Peter Galison) “the zero distance allowed by the dream of an extreme empiricism and the infinite scale of a magical universalism.” Moving within this zone in order to detect what in “forgotten literary forms” we may still want to identify as “aesthetic excellence,” Cohen questions the patterns of reading by which canonicity is fabricated, and asks why we may still feel predisposed to impute “intrinsic value” to certain “archival” works. Something of a Cartesian meditation, Cohen’s article provides a broadly stirring prompt for our thinking about the archival and canonical potentialities of what is arguably Dick’s most ‘archivable’ work.

Over the past semester, the Novel Studies Group has been discussing a host of similarly catalytic material on what is often thought to be the approximately three-hundred-year practice of novel reading. Thinking about modes of deep, surface-level, and even pathological reading, the group recently bit in to Eve Kosovsky Sedgwick’s 2002 piece on paranoid and reparative reading, apprehending in Sedgwick’s recovery of  Ricouer’s night-sky vision of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, the triadic constellation that was Ricouer’s “taxonomic” study of these “suspicious” hermeneuticians. Underscoring the paranoiac affects occasioned by the practice of reading itself, reading becomes a kind of mind-writing: a mental inscription and refabrication of the original materials. A perfect capsule text for the vertiginous psychic stream along which texts are imbibed, metabolised, and reappropriated, the Exegesis also explodes and scales up the question of novelistic interpretation into multiple companion modalities, comparing the effects of this book-form narrative to computer systems, the systems of physics (Dick describes alternative timelines pulsing on tachyon time), and even to such fantastic beasts as the three-eyed lobster that appears in his 1981 novel VALIS.

Heraclitus, a name Dick mentions often in the Exegesis, once remarked that “the nature of things is in the habit of concealing itself.” A cogent motto for this month’s discussion, these words will remind us that what is crucial in Dick’s work is his attempt to wipe back, or scrub at, the surface of textuality itself, all in the hope of disinterring “the nature of things” that we are all compelled, like Dick, to envision lying beneath the words themselves. Exhibiting what it means to become sincerely auto-critical, to self-psychoanalyse, and self-diagnose, the Exegesis represents the collision of author and critic, practitioner and theorist.

The selections from the Exegesis to accompany Cohen’s piece span a range of topics, and we’ve specified that we’d like to look at the material in Folders 19, 38, and 44. These include:

  • Dick’s image of the brain as an organising principle and a ‘giant floating crap game’;
  • a few paragraphs of argument supporting Dick’s insistence that “Ubik is true”;
  • a passage of 39 points that Dick wrote in the mania of a deep hypergraphic phase (an outburst that the editors, despite it’s notable ‘exuberance,’ felt compelled to cut down into a more manageable morsel);
  • a chronology of Dick’s own fiction that he tethers to a historical study of the epochs of our ontological enslavement; and, finally,
  • a most brilliant self-interview.

Please get in touch with us on Facebook if you’d like to come along. All are welcome, and we’d love to see new readers there.

–Chris Rudge and Pat Cronin

Our October Meeting: Date changed to 9 October

poster - wk6- 9octDeparting from of our usual first-Thursday-of-the-month custom, please note that we will now be meeting on the 9th of October for our 6th meeting. See the poster at left for details. Featuring a few busts of Beethoven–and his life mask of 1812–as well as a cassette tape and recorder, the poster takes inspiration from Dick’s multiple references to Beethoven in this month’s reading, as well as Dick’s reference to the so-called “Platt Tape.” Recorded on 17 May 1979 in Santa Ana, the Platt Tape features an interview with Dick that was conducted by Charles Platt for his book, Dream Makers: The Uncommon People Who Write Science Fiction. The interview itself is fantastic, offering a number of lucid biographical revelations from Dick about his Berkeley days, including a few recollections of his early reading habits, and his adoration of Proust and van Vogt, whom he seems to offer up as avatars for his diverse taste in both ‘classic’ literature and sci-fi. Conceding something of a knee-jerk disdain for literary “classics,” however, Dick explains that his reading habits were wholly epicurean:

My motivation was entirely a pleasure/pain motivation. I read what I read because I liked it. I was extremely rebellious against authority, and if something was considered a classic I didn’t read it because it was a classic. I mean, I wasn’t trying to read classics per se. I liked Proust, I liked [A.E.] van Vogt. I still like Proust and I still like [A.E.] van Vogt.

The interview is well worth a listen, and appears not to be transcribed online. Perhaps it’s transcribed in Platt’s book? Please let us know if you know.

Upcoming Conference Panel

In other news, members of the reading group Chris, Pat, and Adam, will be speaking as a panel at a conference next month at the University of Sydney. The Happiness, Joy and Pleasure conference will host our three papers, which we have grouped under the title “Hedonic Mediations: Happiness in Science and Science Fiction.” More details to come.

Meeting Viewing: ‘Beyond The Door’ (2011)

FANTUNIVJAN1954Another thing we are thinking of doing at the next meeting (if we need, or can get, a breath from The Exegesis) is watching a short film based on one of Dick’s early short stories (embedded below). Directed and edited by Matthew Mandarano in 2011, the film is based on Philip K. Dick’s 1954 short story, “Beyond The Door,” originally published in the January 1954 issue of Fantastic Universe (cover at left). “Beyond The Door” seems to have been republished in various formats since the ’50s, including in a new ebook edition this year (2014) under Harper Collins’ Harper Perennial Classics label.  

We hope to see you at the meeting! Get in touch via Facebook or by email if you have any questions or want to know more about the group.

The Simulacra: A Simulation of a Seminar

Earlier this month, two members of this reading group–Chris Rudge and Dr Adam Hulbert– gave individual seminar papers at the University of New South Wales. This was arranged by the UNSW’s School of Arts and Media for their SAM Seminars 2014 programme. The Reading Group is grateful to Collin Chua, who convened the seminar, and to the UNSW, which hosted it. Following the seminar, attendees were invited to join a special instance of the Aesthetics After Finitude reading group, where we spoke with Michael O’Rourke of Punctum Books via Skype.

For those interested, a video recording of Chris’ paper is embedded below. A written copy of the original essay from which this seminar lecture is adapted is available here.

Schizophrenia and the Essay of of Changes

In other (much belated) news, Philip K. Dick’s essay “Schizophrenia and the Book of Changes” has had what is on my count its fourth publication in On Acid: A Field Guide to Altered States, edited by John Moeller and William Rauscher (Italy: CCC Editions, 2011). Limited to a run of only 1000 editions, this softcover volume reproduces a diverse selection of short essays (and excerpts of essays) apropos acid and altered states, including work by Antonin Artaud, Timothy Leary, and William James.  Here are some photos of the volume, which is available here:

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Dick’s essay was originally published in issue 11 of the fantasy fanzine Niekas. This particular issue of the fanzine seems to have appeared on eBay a few times, but it does seem to be rarer than than some of the later issues. Niekas always had great artwork. Here’s an image of the front cover of issue 11, which appeared in March 1965:

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Some 22 years after its first publication in Niekas, “Schizophrenia” appeared in issue 14 of the Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter (PKDS Newsletter), together with Dick’s essay “Naziism and the High Castle.” (This latter essay had actually also been originally published in Niekas, but in issue no. 9.)(1964).) Edited by Paul Williams, the PKDS Newsletter 14 was published in June 1987 with artwork from ‘Ferret’ and Matt Howarth:

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41CTGAA65YLBefore it was reproduced in On Acid, “Schizophrenia” found what is perhaps its most archivable home in Lawrence Sutin’s edited collection of Dick’s essay writings (above), first published in 1995, titled The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings (New York: Pantheon, 1995).

Immediately preceding “Schizophrenia” in Sutin’s edited volume is another interesting essay: Dick’s 1964 piece titled “Drugs, Hallucination, and the Quest for Reality.” This short essay was originally published in issue 11 (November 1964) of a zine called lighthouse, edited by Terry Carr. So rare are editions of lighthouse, that I am yet to see the front cover of this issue 11. Here, however, are the beautiful, minimal illustrated covers of issues 14 and 15:

lighthouse_196610_n14 lighthouse_196708_n15

Please let us know if you are aware of any other published editions of Dick’s “Schizophrenia” essay.

Le Folie Circulaire: Our 5th meeting and a Seminar

Just a brief note to advise of two upcoming events this month. Firstly, we have our regular Reading Group meeting, which will happen this Thursday 4 September from 5:30pm.  This will take us up to about half way through the Exegesis. Details are on the poster below at left.

Beaming in Circles

poster - wk5 - draft -2In this section of the volume, we start to see Dick becoming increasingly and more rigourously speculative about his 2-3-74 experience, treating the occurrence not simply as the manifestation of a pink-beam force that invades and affects him, but as a kind of circulation that moves through, with, and then away from him. The descriptions begin to have some structural affinity with what French psychiatrist Jean-Pierre Falret described as  la folie circulaire (circular madness) in his introductory conferences between 1850 and 1854 on the clinical approach in psychiatry. Falret’s classification, formally enunciated in a paper of 1854, was the forerunner to what we now describe as bipolar affective disorder, a nosological category distinguished by the alternation of manic and depressed states over long periods of time. While Dick does not, here or elsewhere in his life, appear to experience bipolar in this classical sense–nor in the modern sense of what are now shorter manic and depressed periods–it is interesting to think of the structural topology of Falret’s philosophical-psychiatric notions alongside parts of Dick’s expositions. Falret suggests that, as a result of circular madness, and the impact of this mental disease on the soul, a “novum organon” (new organ) manifested in the sufferer, which could not be dissipated by organic methods alone. Palliation, rather, Falret argues, required a kind of reverse engineering of the new organ through a moral or hypnotic means. This process is partly induced and unconscious, and partly guided and aware. Thinking along the lines of Falret, Dick’s remarks on 2-3-74 are notable for their circular structure: 

An overriding quiddity of the 2-3-74 experience is this: It’s as if certain books of mine went out from me (Unteleported Man, Ubik, Tears, etc.) and then (years) later (or weeks) came back, like in F. Brown’s “The Waveries,” in signal form: including the “bichlorides” info, like an answer to a Q which I had previously—maybe years before—posed. It was all—2-3-74—like a mind responding to my mind as I expressed it in my books.

What is interesting here is how 2-3-74 facilitates the circulation of Dick’s mind and books, which originally emanate from him, either in their composition or during the actual 2-3-74 event, and then return to him–with the pink beam, or at a later time–now transduced “in signal form.” On the return of the books’ ideas, they now seem to answer questions that Dick had posed earlier–either in the worlds of the novels themselves, or in an altogether different place and time. The information, like a ‘new organ,’ provides an additional or supplementary material beyond merely what is written in the books themselves. What causes or enables this new organ–this sense of a new “mind responding to [Dick’s original] mind” to appear? This is Dick’s crucial question in many of these pages, and a question for us to reflect on in our discussion.

SAM goes Sci-fi

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The second event of note this month is a free seminar that will happen at the University of NSW on Tuesday 9 September. Chris and Adam of the Reading Group will present seminar papers on radio/radiation and psychiatric devices in Dick’s fiction, and invite questions and discussion from those in attendance.

This is an evening seminar, and the talks should go for approximately 30-35 minutes each. Details are on the poster at left. I expect there shall be enough wine and snacks for all who attend. We’d love to see you there!

We Can Postpone Two Meetings For You Wholesale

Final Stage: The Ultimate Science Fiction Anthology

Final Stage: An Anthology that features Dick’s “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.” What makes this volume interesting is that its publisher, Carol Rinzler, edited almost all of the stories without first seeking or gaining their authors’ approval. More on this story here.

In what feels like a game of unchance, but, we can assure you, is not a war with fnools (sorry — Chris), we reluctantly will have to put off another meeting until what will be something of a September reunion. For all prospective members’ sakes, we’re looking forward to a time when the lives of those involved with this group are slightly less punctuated by deadlines; although it is by reason of these deadlines that we are getting our Dickian work done, scrivening away in our hovels.

In fact, these deadlines signal just the fact that the group is raging on precisely as it should: PhD theses, conference papers, and other manner of PKD-related projects are precisely what’s stopping us, ironically, from getting together to chat about the ampheteminergic scrivener’s works themselves. So, with our excuses out of the way, we now present our updated meeting schedule here.

UNSW Sam Seminar Series: “The Unsettling Domestic Life of Philip K Dick’s Alternate Thingyverses”

The positive and productive item of business is that Adam and Chris will be presenting extended papers, each of about 45 mins, at one of this term’s instalments of the UNSW’s SAM Seminar Series. Our papers, supplemented by what are surely to be recognised as some of the most vivid slides in the conference avocation, shall be delivered on Tuesday 9 September at UNSW, 5:00-6:30 pm, in the Robert Webster building, lecture theatre 327. All required details are here. More updates to follow!

A Little Something for Us Dickanauts

Our SAM series talks will follow the conference panel that members of this reading group assembled last month for the University of Sydney’s Prosaic Imaginary conference. Our talks were very well received, prompting the likes of John Plotz, one of the conference’s fantastic keynotes, to register what we are happy to interpret as his thoughtful encomia. Since that conference, both Chris and Adam have uploaded their panel papers to their respectively preferred online loci:

Dick: Ever the Variable Man

More than forty years since his passing, novel biographical memories are still being recalled about Philip K. Dick. Recently, R. Grahame Cameron shared his memory of Dick’s attendance at a Canadian science-fiction conference in Canada in 1972. One of the great lines from Cameron’s piece details Dick’s response to what seems to have been a Fluxis-style assemblage of experimental found sounds produced by Marshall McLuhan, the likes of which one might have expected to find in an edition of the great 1960s’ Aspen. The object of the audio piece was seemingly to reproduce a fragmented or pre-unified version of sonic reality–a kind of pre-conscious subject sonic ecology, enabling listeners to hear the “medium without the message” (or “the message without the medium”), as it were. As Cameron writes,

I have a phonograph record on which Marshal McLuhan put together music, bits and pieces of dialogue and assorted sound effects jumbled together that was supposed to give you some sense of McLuhan’s thoughts on how the media work, and worked us over, as he would say. Well, we started playing this for Dick because we thought it would be the sort of thing he’d enjoy, and all of a sudden he started yelling ‘Turn it off! Turn it off! It sounds like the inside of my head!’”

It’s hard to know whether to take the often self-satyrising and sardonic, but at-other-times maniacal Dick seriously here. Would the inside of Dick’s head have been so disturbingly reverberant with the likes of these sound effects at this stage of his life?  And, if so, isn’t it all the more interesting that, at this moment in which this psychoticized aurality is reproduced and compounded, that we should hear, in Dick’s panicked tones, his anxious request to turn it off?

You can expect more from us post-September. Until then, we’ll be in a retreat syndrome.

July Meeting postponed — but come to our conference panel!

Why our July meeting’s postponed

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Our schedule’s out of joint.

Our July reading meeting will be postponed until August as the core members of the PKD Reading Group will be presenting at an international conference at the University of Sydney. This allows us to spend twice as long on pages 312-444 of The Exegesis, which, as we dig deeper into the tome, seems to require these postponements, doublings, and prolongations of time.

The reading group will be presenting a three-paper panel at this conference, a novel-centered four-day affair titled “The Prosaic Imaginary: Novels and the Everyday, 1750-2000.” Reassessing the novel as “portable property” after John Plotz’s 2008 book, the conference will take up the term “prosaic” in new ways, addressing the practice of novel reading as an ‘everyday’ activity, and considering novels as texts uniquely given to an authors’ (and readers’) study of that which is ‘prosaic’ and imaginary in the material world (and their interrelations). More information about the conference, and registration for attendance to it, is best accessed through the conference’s novelnetwork.org website. We’d love to see you there.

I’ll embed our (pdf) abstract below for those interested:

Doing ‘things’ with Dick’s novels

As our abstract suggests, we’ll be sketching out a broad relation between Dick’s novels and their depiction or relation to material ‘things.’ More generally, our papers will give attending scholars and participants an overview of this reading group, Philip K. Dick’s life and career, and Dick’s own obsession with objects of all kinds. Our panel’s engagement with Dick’s psychological and ontological responses to objects is signalled by our abstract’s title: ‘Novel Objects: The Unsettling Life of Things in the Novels of Philip K. Dick.’

Dick’s obsession with his filing cabinet, which hosted a vast collection of SF magazines, and his fixation on his Magnavox amplifier and other hi-fi equipment, which he would reimagine as Palmer Eldritch’s “vidlux” eyes in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), is emblematic of Dick’s loving and epicurean treatment and collection of objects and machines in his novels and short stories. Looking at his third wife Anne’s children (“the girls”) playing with Barbie dolls on the floor (including a Ken doll) — dolls that Dick and Anne had given them for Christmas in 1963 — Dick was inspired to write his short story “The Days of Perky Pat” (later becoming The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch), which depicts a group of displaced adults playing with similar dolls and “layouts” (doll houses) on the colonies of Mars. As Dick wrote in an introductory note to the story,

‘The Days of Perky Pat’ came to me in one lightning-swift flash when I saw my children playing with Barbie dolls. Obviously these anatomically super-developed dolls were not intended for the use of children, or, more accurately, should not have been. Barbie and Ken consisted of two adults in miniature. The idea was that the purchase of countless new clothes for these dolls was necessary if Barbie and Ken were to live in the style to which they were accustomed. I had visions of Barbie coming into my bedroom at night and saying, ‘I need a mink coat.’ Or, even worse, ‘Hey, big fellow… want to take a drive to Vegas in my Jaguar XKE?’ I was afraid my wife would find me and Barbie together and my wife would shoot me.

[See: The Complete Stories of Philip K. Dick: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and Other Classic Stories (New York: Citadel Press, 1987), 366.]

The above lines (or visions) express a good-humoured, but typically anxious Dick of the early 1960s — the Dick who felt that sustaining his recent marriage to Anne involved, at least partly — and whether he was right or wrong to think so — keeping his relatively new family happy, living in ‘the style to which they had become accustomed.’ Interestingly, Dick and Anne did own a Jaguar, although it was a white 1953 MK VII Saloon — not an XKE.

A white, c. 1953 Jaguar Mark VII Saloon

Dick’s attachment to the vehicle, which he and Anne had bought in 1963 for $2,000 from the “head mechanic at British Motors” (according to her memoir), fastidiously replacing the carpet with the “best-quality royal blue plush carpeting [they] could find” (60) is expressed in the second chapter of We Can Build You, when our narrator Louis Rosen lovingly describes the model, owned by businessman Maury Frauenzimmer:

The Mark VII Saloon Model Jaguar is an ancient huge white car, a collector’s item, with fog lights, a grill like the Rolls, and naturally hand-rubbed walnut, leather seats, and many interior lights. Maury kept his priceless old 1954 Mark VII in mint condition and tuned perfectly, but we were able to go no faster than ninety miles an hour on the freeway which connects Ontario with Boise (WCBY, 8).

Anne, according to her memoir, eventually sold the Jaguar, trading it in for a Volvo — much to Dick’s chagrin (TSFPKD, 60). [For more on Dick’s cars, see David Gill’s post.]

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Shattuck Avenue in the 1940s (Image: The Berkeley Historical Society).

In the late ’40s, over a decade before Perky Pat was inscribed on the pages of Amazing Stories, Dick worked as a sales clerk at a record and hi-fi shop, University Radio and Electronics, and later at another shop, Art Music, where he sold records and repaired hi-fi equipment, nurturing his relation to material objects. (According to these entries on popturf.com, University Radio was located at 2165 Shattuck Ave and Art Music was at 2328 Telegraph Ave.) Withdrawing from UC Berkeley in 1947 due to his disapproval of the then mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corp regime (Dick claimed he refused to reassemble his rifle during the ROTC), Dick’s literary career took its first steps in the 1950s when he sold his first SF novel, Solar Lottery. All the while he had been trying to carve out a literary career, Dick had fallen back on his employment in these music and record shops. Just before he sold Solar Lottery, Dick, in 1953, briefly worked at Tupper and Reed.

[The above chronology is adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s Chronology at the back the Library of America volume. See: Dick: Four Novels of the 1960s (New York: Library of America, 2007), 803-4.]

Our Curated Exhibition

Things are moving along well with our curated exhibition in concert with the University of Sydney Rare Book Library and its astonishing Science Fiction and Fantasy collection. As we telegraphed a few posts ago, we’ll be displaying a number of first and early edition Dick hardback and paperback novels, but, in addition, we also will be showing off some of the early short story magazines. Our preliminary list of those that we want to have on display follows (in no particular order):

  • “The Adjustment Team,” Orbit SF (No 3 or 4?) Sept/Oct 1953;
  • “The Turning Wheel,” Science Fiction Stories, no. 2, 1953;
  • “Beyond Lies The Wub,” Planet Stories, July 1952;
  • “Roog,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Feb 1953;
  • “The Father-Thing,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1954;
  • “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1966;
  • “The Little Black Box,” World of Tomorrow August 1964;
  •  “The Days of Perky Pat,” Amazing Stories, December, 1963;
  • “Your Appointment Will be Yesterday,” Amazing Stories, August 1966;
  • “A. Lincoln, Simulacrum,” Amazing Stories, January 1970;
  • “Beyond The Door,” Fantastic Universe, January 1954;
  • “Minority Report,” Fantastic Universe, January 1956;
  • “Paycheck,” Imagination, January 1953;
  • “The Golden Man,” IF, April 1954;
  • “Second Variety ,” Space Science Fiction, May 1953; and
  • “King of the Elves,” Beyond Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1953.

Cotton-gloved among the silver fish, our rare book librarian friends are doing the heroic work of wading through the stacks and compactor shelves for these particular items, and we cannot wait to get the exhibition up and ready. Watch this space for photos and updates over the coming weeks. If you’re interested in coming along to the Reading Group in future months, please also see the revised meeting schedule.