Current Groups

Discussion Group 144: September 4 – 13, 2023

Rachel DuRose

The last three years have been a volatile time for the journalism industry; the pandemic further flamed accusations of "fake news," and layoffs (many of which are credited to AI) have plagued the industry. For decades the pillars of journalism were "objectivity" and "fairness," yet in many ways, those terms limited the practice, and have done little to prevent partisan news from flourishing. This book group will go over the history of journalism in the US, speak on the importance of the craft, identify when it has failed, and briefly discuss the future of the industry (especially in the face of AI). We will dive into how public trust and perception of journalism shape the most critical elements of our society. Throughout these ten days, we will read articles, excerpts, and webinar transcripts from The New York Times, (of course), The New Yorker, and more.

Rachel DuRose is a Future Perfect fellow at where she covers increasingly critical issues such as public health and climate change. Rachel previously worked as a Careers Fellow and Junior Careers Reporter at Insider. She covered the workplace, hiring, and executive leadership. Rachel is a proud UCLA alumna.

Discussion Group 145: September 18 – September 24, 2023

Al Filreis and David Roberts

Discussion of the Carbon and Gold chapters of Primo Levi’s ‘The Periodic Table.'

Discussion Group 146: October 2nd – October 11th, 2023

Kevin Varrone

In Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit writes: I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought. I tend to agree with Solnit’s idea, and literary history suggests a lot of other poets do as well! Walking roots us in place and offers the opportunity to think and see, without rush––to stay in the current of time, but just barely, on its edges, taking it all in. In this book group, we’ll read and discuss 10 walk poems by 10 contemporary poets through the lens of these ideas and we’ll put to the test Solnit’s take on walking, as well as the famous idea attributed to Saint Augustine that––solvitur ambulando––it is solved by walking. (Poems will be provided to participants of the group.)

Kevin Varrone is an avid walker and the author of the recent chapbooks How to Count to Ten and Redemption Center, as well as three full-length collections, most recently Box Score: An Autobiography. He was a 2013 Pew Fellow in the Arts and teaches writing at Temple University.

Discussion Group 147: October 23rd – November 1st 2023

Dylan Leahy

Just in time for Halloween, this discussion group will focus on the 1992 horror classic Candyman. We'll begin with the original Clive Barker short story "The Forbidden", which Candyman (1992) was adapted from, move on to the 1992 film itself, and finish up with the recent horror "re-quel" Candyman(2021). What about this story and premise lends itself well to adaptation and re-invention? What happens to the thematic meat of the story when it's transposed from its original setting of a neglected British public housing complex to the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago? What do these various interpretations tell us about urban legends and folklore and their relationships to social class and race in Britain and America? Does the more explicit "social horror" of the 2021 adaptation enrich the material or lose some of its power in this re-framing? Why aren't Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen more lauded for crafting an incredibly distinct and rich dynamic between slasher and victim? Is Philip Glass's gothic score for the film one of the best of the entire horror genre? And finally, would you be bold enough to say "Candyman" in the mirror five times after watching this film on a chilly autumn evening? All this and more will be covered in this spooky season discussion group. Go ahead, join us, "be [our] victim."

Dylan Leahy is a writer from Central Pennsylvania, currently residing in West Philadelphia. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a B.A. in Cinema Studies; many of his fondest college memories happened at KWH. One of these days he will get around to actually publishing a short story, he swears.

Discussion Group 148: January 2 – January 11, 2024

Jesse Schwartz

Get in the holiday spirit this year with Jesse Schwartz's book group on the best American Christmas Novel (according to him), Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt. Originally written under a pseudonym, The Price of Salt is Highsmith's only explicitly "lesbian novel," though in many ways it is generically similar to her typical crime fiction. In this sense, we can consider this text an exploration of the criminalization of queerness in postwar America, and the price many were forced to pay for their right to sexual self-determination. Like many American novels, this quest for liberty is symbolized through a trip out West. Join this group to follow the fraught couple, Therese and Carol, as they attempt to claim their American birthright of forging their own frontier, and the "nameless, faceless thing[s]" that follow them in pursuit (Highsmith 222). In addition to reading this book, we will also watch the 2015 film adaptation Carol, and compare the two texts and their cultural moments.

Jesse Schwartz (he/they) is an adjunct professor of English Literature at Villanova University, where he teaches a course he designed entitled "Queerness and the Family." He graduated from Penn in 2015, and is honored to have remained a part of the Kelly Writers House community.

Discussion Group 149: February 12 – 21, 2024

Kevin Varrone: Sea Lyrics & Coastal Odes

There have been few more consistent muses in poetry than the seashore, and in this book group we’ll follow that well-trodden path, across beaches and dunes, to the ocean. We’ll read & discuss 10 poems by 10 poets who turned to the sea & tides for inspiration or read them as history or pondered them as mystery or simply went for a stroll, along that jagged line dividing earth and water, to gather shells or gather their thoughts, to find pleasure or solace or secrets or kindred spirits. (Poems will be provided to participants of the group.)

Kevin Varrone is an avid walker and the author of the recent chapbooks How to Count to Ten and Redemption Center, as well as three full-length collections, most recently, Box Score: An Autobiography. He was a 2013 Pew Fellow in the Arts and teaches writing at Temple University.