Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mme Neff's Salon

"La Lecture de Molière" by Jean-François de Troy 
In the early 1600s certain French people, disgusted with the crudeness of Henri IV's court, began meeting in private homes to discuss art and literature. They called their groups salons, after the room in which the larger gatherings took place, or ruelles, after the space between bed and wall in which the smaller ones met.

By the 1700s salons had expanded their areas of interest to politics, philosophy, and religion. In theory, at least, they were places where anything could be discussed as long as participants were polite, civil, and well behaved.

Most salons were hosted by women, who provided invitations, food and a place to meet. The guest list was subversive: it included women as well as men, bourgeois along with aristocrats. Prominent intellectuals and artists spoke freely of their vision for liberté, égalité, and fraternité--dangerous ideas in an age of absolute monarchy.

In the early 2000s certain American people, disgusted with the crudeness of the current and seemingly eternal political campaign, decided to drop out of the political process altogether. They are doing their best to ignore politically motivated ads, commercials, and phone calls. According to a recent USA Today poll, some 90 million of us will not vote in the November election.

I sympathize. The constant name-calling and mud-slinging, whether paid for by super-PACs or freely offered by friends, is depressing. Hesitant to say anything political on Facebook or here on my blogs, I've stopped saying much at all. Since I've used Facebook updates to promote my blogs, I feared my friends would weary of me if I posted such updates too frequently. Some of them no doubt roll their eyes if I post them at all.

"In the salon of Mme Geoffrin in 1755" by Lemonnier, c1814
And then I had an idea. I'd like to discuss politics--and philosophy, religion, art, literature, food, wine, travel, language, dogs, and many other topics--with people who also want to discuss these things, and who share the salons' ideals of politeness, civility, and good behavior. It's a bonus if these people disagree with me: then I might learn something. Alas, nowadays a physical salon isn't too practical. My rooms are not as large as Mme Geoffrin's.

So I set up a Facebook page, "Mme Neff's Salon," that is supposedly accessible whether or not you're on Facebook. If you are on Facebook, and if you LIKE the page, you will get updates in your news feed whenever I post to Lively Dust or The Neff Review. Then, if you wish, you can join a discussion, or initiate one.

Now I feel free to go back to writing. If you want to hear from me, please LIKE the page. If you change your mind, you can easily UNLIKE it later. But whatever else you do, even if you resort to earplugs and blinders to keep out the shouting and turmoil from now until November 6, please vote.


dr. darrell a. harris said...

Refreshing and lovely!

Anonymous said...

Ah, well. I thought I could enter a salon, but I got cut off with the announcement that I needed to join Facebook to continue.

Too bad--it's a nice idea, LaVonne.

--Barbara McC