The NoteStream Book Club - Welcome! cover

The NoteStream Book Club - Welcome!

By ,


ONE winter holiday week too long ago I cut out a newspaper article titled ‘100 Novels You Must Read Before You Die.’
Young and hungry to learn, I quickly realized my formal education had only touched on this long list of books. I was in my early 20s at the time and I set about ticking off these great works with a single-minded determination I’d previously only shown trying to get dates for the Saturday night discos.
I raced through the usual suspects - Catch 22, Cider With Rosie, All Quiet on the Western Front, Lolita, The Grapes of Wrath (3 times - I love this book!), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 1984, Brave New World, etc., etc.
But I have a confession about a shameful secret I have kept even from my nearest and dearest all these years - I skipped a few along the way. And I have continued to shun them all these years…until now.
Rather than simply confess my lie I’ve decided to make it moot. I’m going to read the darned books and I believe we have come up with a method that may help others of you out there hiding a similar guilt over your failure to read essential classics even as you try and give an outward impression of being well read.
The idea is that for the next year, we will read one chapter a week of Great Expectations, or Pride and Prejudice, or...
Together.


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The NoteStream Book Club - Welcome!

ONE winter holiday week too long ago I cut out a newspaper article titled ‘100 Novels You Must Read Before You Die.’

Young and hungry to learn, I quickly realized my formal education had only touched on this long list of books. I was in my early 20s at the time and I set about ticking off these great works with a single-minded determination I’d previously only shown trying to get dates for the Saturday night discos.

I raced through the usual suspects - Catch 22, Cider With Rosie, All Quiet on the Western Front, Lolita, The Grapes of Wrath (3 times - I love this book!), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 1984, Brave New World, etc., etc.

via Commons, (CC BY 2.0)

The novels were listed alphabetically so I worked through them in order…Fielding, Fitzgerald, Forster, Hugo…all the time looking forward to Waugh, Wodehouse and Woolf.

But I have a confession about a shameful secret I have kept even from my nearest and dearest all these years - I skipped a few along the way.

So when I boasted later about meticulously completing this literary list of excellence - this was one I fell back on repeatedly when my kids were tackling Brit Lit in school - I was, I guess, lying.

There were three books I either started and didn’t finish or didn’t start at all: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (I was keen to move on to The Three Musketeers and I really did mean to go back and finish it), Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace (it’s sooooo long) and Ulysses by James Joyce (I even tried drinking copious amounts of alcohol to try and channel the author).

But I have continued to shun them all these years…until now.

Rather than simply confess my lie I’ve decided to make it moot. I’m going to read the darned books and I believe we have come up with a method that may help others of you out there hiding a similar guilt over your failure to read essential classics even as you try and give an outward impression of being well read.

It does, I’ll admit, involve something like a New Year’s Resolution, though one that must last beyond the one and only January 2 appearance at the gym you will keep paying the monthly fee to for at least six months.

The idea is that for the next year, I will read one chapter a week of Great Expectations.

That way it won’t seem so intimidating.

I know there are many out there who have read the novel many times and can recount Pip’s trials and tribulations verbatim and you’re welcome to join us and hold our virtual hands.

Dickens’ great great grandson told me himself a few weeks ago that Great Expectations was his favorite ( I told him I’d read it!) and he seemed a decent, very unstuffy kind of guy so I don’t feel we’re in over our heads.

But it did occur to me as I was abusing my position as Books Director on this app by selecting Dickens to launch our serialization initiative to assuage my own personal guilt that it would be nice not only to chat with my fellow serial readers but also to have a nice comfortable venue for it.

And where would be more cosy than a nice little virtual pub? I live in Southern California which has just about everything but.

In Great Expectations, the Three Jolly Bargemen is a pretty dingy bar populated by convicts and ne’er do wells along with some rather unsavory locals but here at NoteStream we like to think of our 21st century version as a more welcoming escape from the stresses of life today.

Some red leather booths perhaps, maybe a rosewood bar with a bartender furrow-browed from feigning interest and a twinkle in his/her eye. The beer would be ale and warm and the wine would never be Californian, or Argentinian or Australian for that matter. It would probably just be red or white and French.

Image by aes256, (CC BY-SA 2.5)

There’s a bare wooden floor covered in sawdust that’s swept clean every night, a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night and peals of laughter from the regulars in the nook, a slightly cut off corner where the occasional rebel will puff on a hand rolled cigarette. No worries about second hand smoke here.

Although the book is set in the marshes of Kent and the sooty squalor of 19th Century London, Pip’s progress is, in essence, the American dream; a young lad pulling himself up by the bootstraps to become exactly what he wants to be, rather than who he is born to be. Who wouldn’t want to read about that?

In installments.

Facebook gave up on the idea of offering virtual pints and cocktails years ago but we don’t see why you shouldn’t sup on a beverage if you pop in for a while to compare notes on the latest installment.

You may not be able to buy a round but you can certainly share what you’re drinking even if in reality you’re sitting on the subway dreaming about the real thing.

Guests will be drifting into the pub to keep tabs on progress and there will be contest nights and the odd quiz. Sometimes they will be very odd.

It’s a very different story with the second classic we serialized in the NoteStream Book Club. We fully expect many readers of our weekly chapters from Pride and Prejudice to be reading it for the umpteenth time. It’s that kind of book.

Mrs Bennett’s still going to drive you crazy, you’re still going to have to wait patiently for Darcy to finally realize what we know all along and Lizzie is still going to make you think of Keira Knightley (or is that just me?). But imagine now that this little slice of literary heaven will be fed to you in a way so you'll never lose your place. Irresistible right?

For our P&P crew, the Three Jolly Bargemen just didn’t seem an appropriate place for discussion.

That’s why we came up with the Pemberley Tea Room, named after Darcy’s Derbyshire estate and just as real. The sturdy tables are made of wood with red-checked tablecloths. There’s scones in a glass case on the counter and dollops of raspberry jam and clotted cream in containers shaped like giant bells.

The tea - served only in the best Wedgwood pots with loose leaf and a strainer - balms all ills and fuels the gossip. Here, you can get just as heady on Earl Grey as a pint of Speckled Hen.

Who would make a good modern-day Darcy? Why can’t Jane just tell Bingley how she feels? Don’t you just want to whack Collins upside of the head? How far have women come since Austen’s day…and should it be further? These are the kind of questions you may wish to discuss over a cucumber sandwich.

Once we finished Pride and Prejudice we added Emma - some say Jane Austen's masterpiece. The Matchmaker Mischief Chat Room is where to swap strategies for finding "perfect happiness". And we're not done yet.

As much sense as it makes to go back in time and to re-read - and sometimes read for the first time - these wonderful classics, it perhaps makes even more sense to look to the future.

As much as we love reading (you wouldn’t be reading this far otherwise), there’s also a sense that it may simply not be enough any more.

If you know anything about virtual reality, you may be aware of the already existing technology that literally takes you inside a movie. Films are being made right now specifically for this purpose. The Hollywood blockbuster will soon be something you participate in, not merely observe.

And so it is with books.

The app technology is fast and interactive; it can involve you in a story - take you into a page, be it with links or photos or video. The reader need not be incidental to the plot; he or she can help determine the narrative.

With the exclusive serialization of our first contemporary novel, The iCandidate, the intention is to use every advantage of reading on an app without losing any of the experience.

In the past, we would read with interest as the author’s story unfolds. With The iCandidate, NoteStream Book Club members got to vote - or iVote - for their favorites so that they - and not the writers - chose who won out.

Our goal is to help move literature into the future while standing guard on the tenets of the past. It’s a tricky balancing act but there was nothing stuffy about literature in Dickens’ day and the same is the case now.

Our books are all custom formatted for mobile by real people who take the time to find as many of the original images and illustrations as possible. A mere $3.99 cents will get you every novel we publish for the rest of the year.

I’m secretly plotting to follow up Great Expectations with War & Peace and Ulysses, in serial form, of course.

But please don’t tell anybody. Everybody I know thinks I’ve already read them!

David Gardner

Book Club Executive Director

NoteStream