Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Golden Notebook, Week 2

We're now at the end of the second week of the Golden Notebook Project, according to their schedule:

Week 1 & 2 - Ending Sunday, November 23
Finish Free Women 1 and The Notebooks
End Page - Online: 206 (UK: 229; US: 241)

I'm still barely at p.100; better get reading! Some people are very annoyed at the lack of a posted schedule until now; they comment that bookclubs are arranged with better forethought. I'd thought that it would be self-evident that a book of approximately 600 pages read over 6 weeks would result in an approximate schedule of 100 pages a week. But that's just me. In response to this, one of the organizers has noted that this isn't a 'book club', rather, an online experiment in close reading. As she says,

One of the things I'll be looking for is how the Readers re-visit their own earlier commentary as they move through the text. Right now, it seems as though the discussion is happening linearly and tangentially ie: read some, type some, move back to the text and on to the next chunk, repeat.

The online margins invite input in a way unlike paper margins do, and as a result we readers are privy to thoughts and ideas as they develop instead of just final and often times more polished ends. As I mentioned in a different discussion, we'll soon (if not now) be better served by a navigation method other than chronological page or time order. Where will the technology for that come from? This is good stuff!

I am curious as to why I don't see more out-going links in the commentary. If you're going to talk about feminism, for example, if parts of the text remind you of something else, why not use the space and functionality to build the bridge to it and open this novel up to its own themes and implications? (I have my own answers to that question.)

Also noteworthy and curious is why a writer given (theoretically) infinite space to build on an idea might limit her handling of the text to short responses and critiques. Expectations appropriate for a different medium or setting, maybe.

What do you think of all this? Is an 'experiment in online reading' necessary? Do those of us who use this medium feel that anything new needs to be discovered, or are we using the technology successfully for these purposes already? Do you agree with this statement from the posted mission of the Project -- "We don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment " ?
Personally I find this project quite interesting, and am glad to read the comments of the women participating; it's a relief, for example, to discover that I am not the only one to become bored in parts! And it is helpful to have the text and comments side by side. I'm trying to hold back on viewing the comments beyond where I've read, so really should speed my reading up a bit.

The layout and organization of the site seems to me to suggest marginalia; I don't expect treatises with lots of links -- and generally I'd expect that type of information to be linked into the text itself. If I want to say something like "I'm not sure I agree with her here!" it would make sense to me to note it in the margin. If I want to write a longer, thought out essay on why I don't agree with her, I'd place a link in the text to lead the reader to my discretely posted essay. So I am not sure what I think about the purpose of the Golden Notebook project, but I do enjoy reading it along with a group of other close readers whose comments are available.


  1. I haven't been following this very closely, but it does seem interesting -- I like the experimental feel to it, that they are setting out to see what happens. I do think interesting things can be done with group readings and commenting online. I'll have to follow their results a little more closely!

  2. This is so interesting. I heard Lessing on NPR recently and have had a copy of this book on my shelf for some time. I only just glanced at the project site but I am going to revisit. Thanks for the information.


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