How does this work, then? The current novel is Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, beginning in June 2007. E-text at Pemberley, audiobook available free of charge at LibriVox. If you want to read Lovers’ Vows, the play which the characters in Mansfield Park decide to put on, you may do so here. Your friendly moderators for this novel are elettaria and elfbystarlight.
We'll be posting the real text of novels chapter by chapter on this community, running one novel at a time. Victorian novels were often serialised in this way in magazines, sometimes with the author writing only a few chapters ahead of publication. The only posts appearing in this community will be the instalments of the novel itself (plus occasional discussion roundup posts), so you can read along just by adding it to your friendslist.
Each novel will have its own character journal which will post the extracts to the community, such as mansfield1814, and in the case of novels with multiple narrators, several character journals (see how we did this in dracula1897). Depending on the chapter lengths, there will be several chapters posted per week, and the whole novel will run over several months. Chapters are copied from e-texts (of novels which are out of copyright, naturally) and pasted directly into the post, with an LJ-cut a paragraph or so in so that it won’t hog your friends page.
A new feature we’re adding for these reading groups is the facility for people to listen to their chapters instead of reading them if they choose. LibriVox provides free audiobooks from the public domain, read by volunteers. When they're available for the novels we’re reading, we’ll link to the audiobook at the top of every chapter we post as well as putting a link here in the profile.
Are we discussing it as we go along? Yes. Posting access belongs only to the mods and the novel character journals, but everyone will be able to comment on the posts containing the novel extracts. Feel free to share your thoughts, your theories, your detailed readings of the colonialist/feminist/class issues or your happy squeeing that various characters finally shacked up. Just don't yell at other people, or we'll ban you. Please remember that discussions should be about the novel rather than film or stage adaptations, though occasional comparisons of those with the novel are welcome.
Every now and again we mods will pause to put up some general discussion posts. We may also have the odd week devoted to community discussion without posting the novel extracts, in which we could temporarily open up posting access to the whole community, probably with moderated posting.
Of course, you're perfectly free to just read along in silence too. Since we've got several months, it's a great opportunity for anyone who's always meant to read the novel in question and never quite got round to it, and it’s broken up into nice manageable portions. If you join us after the novel has begun running, it shouldn’t take too long for you to catch up.
Whatever you do, if you've read the book before, please don't spoil it for anyone who hasn't. We don’t care how many centuries this book has been in print for, lots of our readers are new to it and don’t want to know what happens later on. That means beginning your comment with a spoiler warning if it contains any information about what lies ahead. Spoiler warnings must include both a warning in the subject of the comment and a clearly-marked warning in the body of the comment, such as *****SPOILER AHEAD***** followed by several spaces.
Has this been done before, and are any other novels running now? Yes indeed. The journey started with dracula1897, the brainchild of eye_of_a_cat, and we’ve gratefully borrowed from her design and profile for that community too. Here are the reading groups which have been run in this format in the past, some by us, some by other people, in various different languages.
dracula1897 - Real time reading of Stoker’s epistolary novel Dracula in English, May to November 2006 draculadiario - Real time reading of Stoker’s Dracula in Spanish, May to November 2006 lesliaisons1782 - Real time reading of Laclos’ epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses in French, August 2006 to January 2007 lasamistades - Real time reading of Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses in Spanish, August 2006 to January 2007 Carmilla1872 - Le Fanu’s novella "Carmilla" posted in gothic_lit, one chapter per day, November 2006
The "Discovering Dickens" Community Reading Project run by Stanford University shows you how these novels were originally serialised, including facsimiles of the original text as divided into its original chunks and lashings of contextual information.
apuntate - Same idea as episodical, only in Italian. Currently running The Count of Monte Cristo the_white_whale - Melville's Moby Dick, posting several chapters per week
This is a great idea! Can I run a novel reading group myself? If you want to join in the fun, there are two options. You could help run a novel in this community after the current novel has finished (mods only need sign up for a novel at a time, it’s not a permanent commitment), or you could set up your own community, in which case we’ll link to you here and cheer you on. Either way, contact a mod and we’ll be happy to talk it over with you and give you tips from our wonderful experience of doing this before if you want to set up your own community. Remember that only texts which are out of copyright and available as e-texts can be used in this way. Authors we’re considering serialising here in the future are Wilkie Collins, the Brontës, Matthew Lewis. If you like Dickens, he’s extremely suited to this format but elettaria can’t stand him, so you might want to set up your own reading group there.
There’s a novel I hope you’ll run in the future, but it’s not available as a free audiobook yet. Can I help? Indeed you can. Go to Librivox and you can find out how to volunteer. Anyone can volunteer to read and anyone can propose a text to be read. Novels may be read by a single reader, or divided amongst several. You may even find that the novel you’re after is being recorded at the moment and still looking for readers. If you want to discuss which novel to record, or recruit some readers to share the job, contact a mod and we’ll put up a post for you here.
You may contact a mod at email@example.com.