I’m looking for a few good readers

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.

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6 Responses to I’m looking for a few good readers

  1. Dan Visel says:

    I’d be more than willing to follow along, but is Moby-Dick really the best source text for this sort of experiment? While the chapters are roughly the same length (short & easily digestible), Melville goes out of his way to keep changing the form – besides going from a first-person narrative to the third-person narrative & back again, he uses the form of the play and the bibliography in the service of his book. While it’s not as forcibly book-like as Tristram Shandy it seems pretty close.
    I love the book – I think it’s the Great American Novel – and would follow along just because I think it is compelling. But maybe there’s something simpler & more episodic, maybe & that would resist less?
    Other ideas: Dante by canto, Shakespeare by scene? although those aren’t any simpler. With Dante I presume there are a couple different public domain English translations which could be presented in parallel . . . maybe I’ll try that.

  2. dave says:

    The main reason I picked Moby-Dick originally was because I hadn’t already read it — the idea was a sort of thought-experiment where I could report my own impressions of picking up a “new” book and reading it in a different way, so that I could compare that experience to reading any other book, and explore the strengths and weaknesses of the “blook” form.

    I suppose I could pick another book, but at this point I’ve already put a considerable amount of work into Moby-Dick. If you’d like, I can share the “hacks” I used to make WordPress behave, and you can try it with your own book. If you did Dante, I might well read along — I’m a big epic poem fan!

  3. Doug Hoffman says:

    How many partners are you looking for? As long as the group is at least four deep, I’d be game. I meet all the requirements:

    I own a copy of M. Dick.

    I haven’t read most of it.

    I’m opinionated.

    I can write.

    Mind you, I’d play it for laughs, if I could. Let me know if you want me on board ;o)

  4. dave says:

    Doug —

    A sense of humor is welcome, but no copy of Moby-Dick is necessary. Remember, you’re supposed to read the online version!

  5. Doug Hoffman says:

    I guess I’m not clear on the concept. Is this the main question: what is it like to read Moby Dick in blog form?

    If so, I’m still game, but I have to say . . . I don’t enjoy reading REALLY long pieces on a CRT.

    I think it would be a lark to read MD as a group experience. Makes me chortle to think what I could do with that first bit with Ishmael sharing a room with Queequeg (sp?)


  6. dave says:


    The idea is supposed to be that the reason you don’t like reading long pieces on-screen is that they were never designed to be read on-screen. I was like you, until I realized that I read blogs all day, no problem. So maybe the problem is that online books need to look more like blogs.

    But actually, I don’t really have a problem with you reading the paper version, now that the emphasis has shifted more toward a group read than focusing on the e-text aspects of the project.

    Also, to update, I’ve learned via e-mail that Sachin Karol is interested in participating. So that makes four readers (counting me). If anyone else is interested, let me know. I still need six more readers to make this thing happen.

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