Unpopular Culture

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The person behind the popular and always-interesting blog, Asymmetrical Information, Jane Galt (aka Megan McArdle), has recently unveiled Unpopular Culture, which will serialize classic works of lit in blog fashion, allowing for reader comments. From the intro to the project:

Unpopular Culture is meant to be a sort of an online literary salon, where readers can come to read books and talk about them. The idea is this: every weekday, I?ll post the next chapter of a book to the site. Because the works need to be public domain in the United States (where I, and the web server, live), they?ll be older works, from the early 20th century at the very latest?hence the name Unpopular Culture.

The first book to be discussed in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain's satire of chivalric romance. Should be interesting to watch. One question: When does Twain's obscene satire of the Elizabethan court, 1601, hit the Web?

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  1. It’s a great concept. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing something similar with some of the old essayists (e.g., Montaigne). Blogs beyond the basic “link and comment” really are the rebirth of the old personal essay–something I keep hearing died with E.B. White or Mencken–which is what made me think of the idea in the first place. Anyway, I like Ms. McArdle’s idea of recapturing the flavor of the old serializations.

    I think for a serial-book blog like Unpopular Culture to work, it has to include annotations, images, commentary, and other things to make it more than just another e-book source. It would be really interesting to get scholars associated with the serialized authors to guest blog and/or comment. Of course, I don’t know what kind of spare time Ms. McArdle could have left to do all of this with Asymmetrical Information and her day job.

    I don’t know whether this might not be a better idea for Cato, but Reason could do something similar with all of the books and essays that form the political foundations of classical liberalism. For instance, a blog that published part of the Federalist Papers every week could be interesting.

  2. Classic Novels on Demand did it first with serialized novels on a mailing list system. It’s a great concept, but I wonder how many of us –honestly– can stick with it after several posts? The blog format is designed for skimming and speed-reading. Most people don’t (and shouldn’t!) read fiction that way

  3. Classic Novels on Demand did it first with serialized novels on a mailing list system. It’s a great concept, but I wonder how many of us –honestly– can stick with it after several posts? The blog format is designed for skimming and speed-reading. Most people don’t (and shouldn’t!) read fiction that way

  4. I hate to rain on the parade of someone who’s as tall as I am, but in the beginning there was Project Gutenberg and samizdat.com. And, there is or was Pepys’ Diary in blog form.

  5. It’s certainly unorthodox, and serialization may not be terribly effective these days. Still, I’m somewhat opposed to all of these “rules” one hears about blogging. It’s not exactly an established literary form, after all. Some bloggers just highlight a link with some minimal commentary. Some are really just putting their personal journals on-line. Some actually write essays, at least as a part of their blog. Not to mention the bloggers that support existing academic or media sites. And then there’s Maddox, who transcends us all.

    Of course, as I said earlier, there’s got to be some serious added value to a serializing site; otherwise, people will just buy the book or read the complete e-version somewhere else. Maybe all of this will really blow open when reading something lengthy on screen becomes more like reading something in print.

    And if I want to go back and edit old posts without telling anyone I did so, there’s nothing anyone can do about it [insert maniacal laughter].

  6. Maybe people could deal with it as a daily email.

  7. a neat idea and all, but i would lose my mind trying to read a novel via the web.

  8. They should do what blogs are good at doing – summarize and provoke. Give us the cliffs notes or a pithy section only.

  9. Unpopular Culture…That would be a funny thing.

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