In Rhode Island: Book Talk Among Friends

A few minutes late on a Thursday evening, Hope La Salle bundles herself up the stairs to the second floor of the Warwick (R.I.) Public Library. Palpitations of the heart. She breaks out a prescription bottle. "We may be dying in bed, but we'll get up and drag ourselves here," she gasps, before choking down a pill. "I'll pop my nitroglycerine."

"I'll use my asthma medicine," says Daphne Shein, also late, pulling her face away from the plastic mouthpiece on an aerosol inhaler.

"We don't miss Great Books," they agree.

They settle down at the conference table with their colleagues and...

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