• CommentAuthorLtaps
    • CommentTimeNov 14th 2008
    When I read about this project I was incredibly excited. I read this novel a few months ago, absolutely loved it, and would like nothing more than to read about and engage with other people's opinions on its multitude of themes and ideas... So here I am... and I'm feeling a little disappointed. I realise that it is very early days but I am a little worried that the instantaneous form of the comments thread invariably precludes consideration, the very thing which makes a close reading worth doing...
    • CommentAuthorkathleen
    • CommentTimeNov 14th 2008
    I'm not sure what you mean by "the instantaneous form of the comments thread invariably precludes consideration, the very thing which makes a close reading worth doing." Are you concerned with "the instantaneous" aspect? I'm interested about your point that since readers can comment so quickly and immediately, it makes the conversation something less than it could be or something less than you imagined. How do you think the form of the comments is in conflict with the goals of a close reading? All feedback is very helpful here!
    Hey Ltaps. Care to expand on your comment a little? Are there things you'd like to hear us talking about that we're not discussing? Do you feel we're not putting enough thought into our comments?

    I wonder if we should perhaps make it clear which of us have read the book before and which are encountering it for the first time. I've never read it before, so I'm commenting on things as they occur to me during my reading. I imagine that if you read it months ago and have been pondering on it since, the thoughts of someone reading it through for the first time might seem a bit shallow to you. But, I'd love to hear specifically what concerns you.
    I'm not 'concerned' & I'll let Ltaps speak for herself, but I don't understand the structure or concept of this project. The Home page explains it as 7 women reading and sharing their comments in the margins. ??? I thought we were more than 7. Maybe this could be talked about? What is the role of the 7?

    I was really delighted to find this project, have already read 1 1/2 chaps in a few days, yet have found the small r reader comments much more inspiring, comfortable, um, sisterly, and clear than the capital R readers (and sorry, I have not read 1/4th of you) as the latter often have an academic, theoretical, or abstract tone. What women's literature was about, at the time this book was published, was finding a common, emotional, nonpretentious and authentic voice among women. It was about writing which expressed feeling, and especially women's feelings, which had been repressed for so long.

    I'm still not sure if there is a proposed way to do this project. Some of your comments suggest that you think we'll read the text then flip to your comments then flip to the forums then flip back but speaking for myself 650 pages is too long for this. I tried for a few pages.

    Is the writing you 7 are doing about your reading to be the main project? If so I certainly understand but I wonder if it could be made clearer here. The fact that this site/project doesn't have an instruction sheet is part of it's beauty, as anyone can interpret it as they want, but I wonder if the overall form or intent could be a little clearer. One of it's intentions -- I read this in one of the first reader comments, the reader being one of the 'developers' of the project, writing about applying for grant funding -- was as an experiment in online education. I think this is also valid & totally worthy but if so could this be said, also?

    Naomi, hmmm I've already read 2 of 3 other readers' comments who said that they, like me, read it in the 70s, and that it changed their lives. So should the Readers make it clear who is 'encountering' the book for the first time? I don't know, and again I am unclear on the Readers' role in this project. I am curious if the Readers are paid for their participation. Obviously Readers were chosen for this project -- close reading of a book -- without having knowledge of the book -- so again I'm confused as to what the project's point might be. I'm curious why you didn't choose more Readers with deep knowledge of Lessing and the GN, which would have been pleasing to people who know and love her.

    I'm definitely enjoying rereading it! Thank you all so much.
    Hi, Marthaquest. Many many interesting questions. As far as I'm aware Bob Stein is the architect of this project so he might want to weigh in on some of them. I certainly can't speak to why I, or other readers, were chosen.

    But, for what it's worth, my understanding is that this is an experiment. We haven't said "we hope this will be a reading guide for other readers" or "please read our comments as you read along". One of the things that really attracted me to this project was that the objectives weren't totally fixed. I was interested to see how it evolved and what we could learn from it about reading and writing online as much as about the Golden Notebook. I mean, clearly, if one wants to read a deeply-analysed, considered and peer-reviewed essay on the novel, many of those already exist.

    And you're quite right, as someone who's never read the book before I'm unlikely to come up with some brilliant new way of approaching it as I go along! So perhaps my value in the project is to be presenting a fresh pair of eyes, to say "how does this stand up, to someone who hasn't read it before, who lives in a world which is supposedly 'post-feminist'? Does it still feel relevant?" Perhaps that's the reason for the mix: some people whose lives were changed by it, some who've never read it and so come to it without (too many) preconceptions.

    One of the interesting things that came out of the conversation between the seven of us before the project started is that TGN is now set much more frequently as a set text for Gender Studies courses than for Literature. So, how does it feel now as a novel? Is its main importance as a pillar of the feminist movement?

    But! It could be that what we'll learn from the project is that it doesn't work so well with people who are reading the book for the first time. This would be an interesting result, something worth knowing if the project's repeated with other books, especially as "book groups" tend to choose books that are new to them, rather than re-reading old ones. I'm a great fan of re-reading, personally. Reading a great book for the first time always feels like I'm just preparing the ground for future re-readings.
    Oh, also, found an article online about the project which has a good thought about us seven "privileged" readers. ->link<-

    "having signed up to do so, they are under a (moral) obligation to keep commenting" - I guess this is true! We've got to stick with it, and keep on trying to find relevant things to say, so we guarantee that the project will continue to the end of the book.

    But I think it's also interesting to see how this evolves; the web is of course breaking down barriers between "creators" and "consumers of their creations". If what we come up with is totally outshone by the contents of these forums, that might indicate that the structure should be changed for future similar projects.
    • CommentAuthorbob stein
    • CommentTimeNov 16th 2008
    there's a bit of background to the origins of the project on the blog here:
    and the readers are paid? Where did the money go to?

    The exclusion of Lessing scholars is terribly disappointing. I feel exactly like Doris Lessing in her words of the preface of the GN ... women who were very involved in early women's lit and who did the work there are rather ignored for the 'fresh eyes' of the new readers. I mean, come on ..... this just seems terribly disappointing to people who love Lessing & the GN.

    So, as Naomi says, the 7 of you knew each other and talked about the project before it crystallized, so the choice of the GN was sort of secondary? The goal of an internet reading group was first, and you chose the text afterward, right?

    I still love this book and Lessing but am less and less interested in your project. waaaaaaaaa.
    It would have been so cool if you had included someone who really knows lessing and women's lit in the 60s or 70s, I'm not sure why but I'm thinking of Gloria Steinem, somebody who could say, hey, this is what it was like back there. It's a big point in Lessing's work. Gender studies as it exists now is not what women's studies was, the focus is very different. although of course it too may be on it's way out with the current financial situation.
    • CommentAuthorBrainyBabe
    • CommentTimeNov 16th 2008
    I have never read any Lessing, always meant to, but somehow never quite got around to it. This project inspires me, in that I will have others to discuss it with. But how many, I wonder, will be coming to it with fresh eyes?
    • CommentAuthorBrainyBabe
    • CommentTimeNov 16th 2008
    Also, I have comments about the process. Even signing up for an account to comment here was a little less friendly than it could have been. There are hints in the wording of the sign-up form that one might not be deemed worthy to contribute.
    Hi marthaquest - no, we didn't know each other first. The choice of TGN was first as Bob explains in the 'background' he linked to. We did meet before the project started, though, which was where we had the conversation I mentioned above.
    Hmmmm. The money question is being ignored. The Readers and Bob do not answer.
    I've reread the 'background' Bob links to but I still don't understand what came first, but thanks for pointing out Bob's introduction again. That's why I asked the question, because it isn't clear.
    • CommentAuthorbob stein
    • CommentTimeNov 17th 2008 edited
    Here are some answers to some of the questions that have been raised here:

    Why The Golden Notebook?
    We chose The Golden Notebook for several reasons. It's a great read. It comprises a range of themes that cry out for conversation. The author, Doris Lessing, just won the Nobel Prize which focuses attention on her most famous book. It's a long book which means that the experiment will have room to breathe, to develop over time, to have a more complex arc than something occuring over days rather than weeks.

    How did you pick the readers?
    The readers were chosen by me, going mostly on instinct, with agreement from my colleagues at the Institute and with final approval from Harper Collins and Doris Lessing who kindly gave us permission to display the entire text of the novel (at no cost). Harriet Rubin was one of the first people I told about the experiment and she immediately asked if she could participate. I respond well to enthusiasm, especially when it comes from one of the smarter people i know and quickly said yes. I wrote a note to Philippa Levine asking her to recommend a student who she thought might be appropriate and she also asked if she could be one of the readers. Philippa's a brilliant historian and a Brit who now lives in the States so I jumped at the chance to include her. I'd recently read Naomi Alderman's debut novel, Disobedience and loved it. In addition to her "traditional" writing, Naomi has written the text for Alternative Reality Games and various online literary projects for Penguin in the UK. This familiarity with online expression would be handy I thought. When I told Naomi we were looking for a woman in her twenties, raised in Britain, to join the group her instant and perfect recommendation was Helen Oyeyemi. Lenelle Moise came to my attention over the summer when I saw her in Expatriate, a wonderful play she wrote, starred in and directed. I sent Lenelle a note and asked if she would consider participating and she enthusiastically agreed. I read Laura Kipnis' wicked smart polemic, Against Love while on holiday and couldn't resist inviting her to join and Laura in turn suggested a young acquaintance, Nona Willis-Aronowitz who has been traveling around the states interviewing women about the state of feminism today.

    Are the readers being paid?
    Yes. Thanks to a grant from the Arts Council England, the seven readers are being paid for their time. They are all busy professionals and there was no way I felt we could expect them to devote many hours per week for five to six weeks without compensation.

    Why not just open the site so that anyone can comment in the margins?
    The current format isn't robust enough to represent a conversation involving large numbers of people. We see this experiment as part an effort to understand how to model a real conversation on the web. Conversations aren't strictly linear or chronological like never-ending blog comment scrolls are. True conversations weave in and out, they wrap back on themselves, and refer to multiple threads at once. We really want to push the conversation among the seven as far as we can. Where does it work? Where does it break? The long-term goal is to build something better. From this perspective broad participation in the forums is a crucial part of the experiment, precisely because it is a place for open-ended discussion, so please be encouraged to participate and share your ideas both on the book itself and the meta-issues of the experiment.
    • CommentAuthorTaryn
    • CommentTimeNov 18th 2008
    This is great!! Already the *R*eaders' annotations and extrapolations are their own thing. I'm itching for a way to navigate the commentary without being tethered to the text or page #s. Tags? Word clouds? Some explicit visual representation of the hums coming from different corners.
    • CommentAuthorLtaps
    • CommentTimeDec 3rd 2008 edited
    Hello there,
    I've been offline for a while but just returned to look around the site. I've been thinking more about my original comment and now i'm wondering whether it is simply that the 'conversational' style of a comments thread is just not that pleasant to read. I'm sure that if you are one of the 7 women enagaged in the conversation then this project could be a very exciting way to read a book. And, i've no doubt that if I were sat in a room with you, or eavesdropping outside, then I would find your spoken comments thought-provoking but when they are written down, yet not translated into written sentences rather than spoken ones (which is the style/form of a comments thread) then they are not only difficult to engage with but appear a bit shallow.