¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Baldwin expected the usual uphill climb in recruiting busy people to take on this project. As he noted in his concluding post on the site, he’d initially created a lengthy list of folks to approach, hoping to persuade three to join Infinite Summer as guides, but to his surprise, “the first three people I asked accepted” (Acknowledgments). In fact, the project took off in ways that might appear unexpected: other bloggers wrote about Infinite Summer, leading their readers to the project; the first few days after the project’s launch saw posts on Ezra Klein’s blog at The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly‘s PopWatch blog, The Guardian‘s Books Blog, and Discover Magazine‘s Cosmic Variance, as well as a wide range of personal blogs such as The Daily Splash and harikari.com. These highly visible authors adopted the project, as did their readers, drawn to the idea of taking on a novel many of them had been putting off, but doing so with support from a larger group of readers. When Margaret Lyons asked on PopWatch, “Am I alone on [sic] liking this sort of communal reading experience that’s not quite a book club so I don’t have to make small talk?”, the answer was apparently a resounding “no.”
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The spread of this reading network bears that answer out. As Baldwin noted in his June 4 post, “The Community,” by that date the Infinite Summer group on Facebook had nearly 2000 members, #infsum had become an active hashtag on Twitter, an Infinite Summer community had been created on LiveJournal, as had an Infinite Summer group on Shelfari and an Infinite Summer page on Goodreads. And the 82 comments that follow Baldwin’s post are a chorus of “I’m in,” a growing manifestation of the connections that the project inspired. Through dozens of posts at Infinite Summer and perhaps hundreds more linked posts elsewhere, written by individual bloggers all commonly engaged in the project of reading and writing together, a community formed.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 Infinite Summer has many precursors, of course, not only in the offline world of book clubs and other forms of reading groups but also in the many online group readings that have been held of Gravity’s Rainbow, for instance, on the pynchon-l listserv, and of course of Infinite Jest itself on the wallace-l list. But there are some key differences between these email-based discussions and Infinite Summer, some of which have to do with the affordances of the blog form itself. The blog contains and makes accessible its own archive, allowing the gradual growth of a community, as latecomers are able to catch up on what they’ve missed with ease. By contrast, the communication on listservs is ordinarily archived, and those archives are usually searchable, but they’re not generally published in a way that makes them conducive to “catching up.” Moreover, though both the listserv and the blog facilitate discussion within a community, the individual voice can at times be lost in the email chatter; the blog, by contrast, highlights the individual voice within its community. Blog posts, as I’ve argued elsewhere, are an authorial medium in a way that email messages and discussion board postings often conceal.1 As a result, a group blog such as Infinite Summer both highlights those individual voices and puts them in conversation with one another.
- ¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0
- See Fitzpatrick, “The Pleasure of the Blog.” ↩
One thing that strikes me about these group reads of long novels is that, in terms of sheer number of words read, it’s more work to participate in an online discussion because you have to read 75 pages of a novel and then read a summary, two or three blog posts (and their comments) on the “main” site, and then more discussion on twitter or facebook or goodreads or ancillary blogs–as opposed to an IRL book club where you can read the book pretty much at your own pace and then just chat about it later over wine. [Also, I think an Infinite Summer in this paragraph needs ital.]