3 November 08 | Chad W. Post

This project was announced a while back, but with the start date one week away, it’s worth mentioning once again. Sponsored by the Institute for the Future of the Book (with funding from the Arts Council England), The Golden Notebook Project is an online experiment in collaborative close reading:

The seven women listed below will read Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook and carry on a conversation in the margins. The seven readers will also record their reactions to the process in a group blog. There is also a public forum in which everyone who is reading along and following the conversation can post their comments on the book and the process itself.

According to Bob Stein:

The idea for the project arose out of my experience re-reading the novel in the summer of 2007 just before Lessing won the Nobel Prize for literature. The Golden Notebook was one of the two or three most influential books of my youth and I decided I wanted to “try it on” again after so many years. It turned out to be one of the most interesting reading experiences of my life. With an interval of thirty-seven years the lens of perception was so different; things that stood out the first-time around were now of lesser importance, and entire themes I missed the first time came front and center. When I told my younger colleagues what I was reading, I was surprised that not one of them had read it, not even the ones with degrees in English literature. It occurred to me that it would be very interesting to eavesdrop on a conversation between two readers, one under thirty, one over fifty or sixty, in which they react to the book and to each other’s reactions. And then of course I realized that we now actually have the technology to do just that.

This promises to be an interesting experiment in online collaboration. In the past Words Without Borders has sponsored many online book discussion groups (I’ve moderated a couple, as has Michael Orthofer and many others), but this is somewhat different. Having seven people signed up from the start makes a huge difference (one of the problems we ran into was getting readers to chime in with their own opinions), as will the fact that the site/blog is exclusively dedicated to The Golden Notebook. It’ll be interesting to see how this works out . . .

And worth noting: as mentioned on the site, this isn’t an experiment in reading online—if you plan on participating, you’ll want to buy a print copy of the book beforehand.

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