The if:book people have launched The Golden Notebook Project, which goes live today. Seven women will read an online version of the Doris Lessing novel and comment in the margins. As you might imagine, the marginalia is rather more elaborate than your old undergrad underlining. On page 3 Lessing uses the word “contumacious,” which I’ll bet no one has used since 1962. Laura Kipnis shoots back, “in the milieu she (and her characters) inhabited, psychoanalysis could be allied to a radical political project of self-reinvention.”
I’ve only gotten the chance to read a few pages so far, and I fear I’ll never catch up with the conversation. Lenelle Moïse is already on page 53! But it’s worth trying to keep up for three reasons: 1. It’s always interesting to read smart people reading a text closely. 2. It’s been claimed that in the future all reading and writing will be public acts. The Golden Notebook project is a step in that direction. 3. The Golden Notebook is creeping back into the canon after years of neglect. Bob Stein, the Co-Director of the Institute for the Future of the Book, is a recent (re-)convert, although one wonders if his enthusiasm for the book made him overlook the sheer size of Lessing’s novel, which weighs in at 672 pages in the US paperback edition. That’s a lot of contumaciousness to read online, but the designers of the project thoughtfully included references to the UK and US paperback editions.