I started the Moby Blook project a few months back with ambitious goals — to put the entire text of Moby Dick online in blog form, then read it myself, and report on the reading experience. I stopped at chapter 16 (out of 135). I stopped reading at chapter 6.
So what happened?
It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the story, or even that I minded reading the book in blog form. Both of these things were going fine. No, my problem was that I’m a bit too much of a perfectionist. Every time I found a formatting problem, I wanted to fix it right away. I couldn’t do the experiment I wanted to do, because proofreading a book is different from reading a book for pleasure.
I’m still thinking I may finish putting the text online. I’ve actually got a .txt file of the book that is completely formatted in proper HTML — all I need to do is cut and paste the file into blog form. The problem is, I won’t be satisfied with that. I’ll want every quotation mark to be properly curled, every em-dash to be correctly spaced. That means I’ll need to proofread the whole thing. Good proofreading means not reading for content, just for form. But then the story will be spoiled for me — even if I go back later and read it for pleasure, the experience won’t be the same as if I had done the reading cold.
If I decide to go forward with the Moby Blook, I’m going to need to change the mission. Since it’s impossible for me to have a good solo reading experience, what I need to strive for is a good group reading experience. Once I get everything online and proofread, I could recruit a few readers to experience the text along with me, and we could try to have a conversation while we read. It won’t be worth it if I can’t find some willing companions, though, and I’m not particularly good at rah-rah recruiting stuff.
So what I’m going to do is just put this message up, and if I can get, say 10 committed readers, then I’ll go ahead with the project, set a deadline for completing the book and a date and timetable for the group reading.
If we can line up the readers, I’ll go forward with the project; if not, I’ll pull the plug and the Moby Blook will be lost to posterity. Let me know if you’re interested in the comments, link to this post early and often, and we’ll see if it’s worth it to proceed. It will be an exciting project if we can get the readers. I’m prepared to do the work to make the blook, but recruiting readers is up to you.