Catch up on your reading of the classics in just 5 minutes a day.
January 15, 2002 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Catch up on your reading of the classics in just 5 minutes a day. Classic Novels serializes classic literature and sends it to you via e-mail in bite-sized little chunks. Of course many people are probably aware of sites like Project Gutenberg where you can get the full thing, but for those on a time crunch, this seems like a nice way to break it down into easy bite sized chunks.
posted by willnot (11 comments total)
I like the idea. I'm a read-it-all-in-one-go sort of guy but a lot of people I know will enjoy this. It also sort of fits in with the whole 19th century serial-novel thing in a pleasing way.

They also seem to have digged up well-chosen books - rather than a mass collection of everything available - which would appeal to younger teenagers.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:44 PM on January 15, 2002

I don't doubt that a lot of people will find this service very enjoyable and helpful.

That was my first reaction. I was about to subscribe to Lady Chatterley's Lover and King Solomon's Mines -- two books I've been meaning to read for some time, but for various reasons have not had the chance to.

Then I realized something; these are only summaries by a somewhat loose definition of the word. At their estimated five minutes per section, and roughly twenty sections per novel, that's close to two hours of reading.

My point is not that reading these summaries is the "work" equivalent of reading a novel. My point is that while a very short summaries of books often whets my apetite to read the whole thing, a two hour chapter-by-chapter recreation-in-brief is probably not going to leave anything out, and consequently I am less likely to ever want (or need, at least for conversational purposes) to read the novel itself.

So, these two books that I've intended to read but never actually have would probably never get read at all, because if I didn't have time to read them before I had devoted two hours to finding out exactly what was in them, would I reasonably want to devote another 6-8 hours to 'rereading' the same book, or would I rather simply take that time to read a completely different book?

I'm not saying this service is bad, but I think that if you subscribe to one of their titles because you are interested in the novel it derives from, you may experience a bit of a motivational problem later on down the road. Purely theoretical, mind you.
posted by Hildago at 7:37 PM on January 15, 2002

Hildago, where does it indicate that these are summaries? As near as I could tell, these are the novels themselves, broken up into 1500-word chunks.

I think this is a terrific idea. Now, if they just offered something I wanted to read...
posted by jjg at 8:55 PM on January 15, 2002

Uhh.. I just assumed they were summaries, based on the fact that their Heart of Darkness doesn't begin the way I remembered it beginning. Err, umm..

It was just a theory.

(fires gas-propelled grappling hook through skylight, escapes.)
posted by Hildago at 9:37 PM on January 15, 2002

Is there a site where useful summaries are available? I've always thought that would be a great idea, but I've never found one.
posted by ecvgi at 3:49 AM on January 16, 2002

For what it's worth, it seems like the site has found some "free" version of each novel and chopped it into 1500-word sections, as jjg said. The first chapters of Lady Chatterly's Lover match my old paperback exactly.

The question I have is what's the benefit here: is the mode of reading these books -- that the text is delivered in daily e-mails -- so compelling that it's preferrable to a paperback? Except that I could subtly digest e-mails while my boss putters around behind me, I'd take a book anyday: underlining, page marking, stopping when I want, reading all night if I feel like it.

Old debate here, but will you have as in-depth an experience with Don Quixote in Outlook as you would with the book in your hands? And of all things, doesn't classical literature beg for deep reading?
posted by rosecrans at 4:29 AM on January 16, 2002

I was reading this with the same reaction that others have expressed--namely, why would you want to read a novel this way, given that one of the great pleasures of novel-reading is total immersion in a fictional universe?

But then I was struck with an alternate use for this approach. [minor thread hijack] I work with college students who have problems studying, and one of my biggest challenges is to break them of the cramming habit--sitting down the night before an exam and trying to jam through three or four chapters all at once. I mean, hell, I've done that, we've all done it, but it seems clear that you learn and retain material better when you chunk it up into small bits and take one chunk a day, over a period of time.

So I wonder about this as an alternate means of delivering textbook material to students, given that nowadays many seem to prefer to read material electronically rather than in a big honkin' intimidating-looking textbook. It would be interesting to run an experiment on this and compare outcomes... Anyway. Ahem. Sorry for OT ramblings.
posted by Kat Allison at 4:58 AM on January 16, 2002

If each episode is 1500-1800 words, how many weeks/months will it take to read an entire book? Sounds like quite a long-term commitment, to me! (What's with the site's "Cosanostra Forum"? Is MacLit a Mafia plot?)
posted by Carol Anne at 5:22 AM on January 16, 2002

Ecvgi: I'm not aware of any sites that summarize books well, but I know of one that does it humorously. For summarization of classics, the best source I've found was The Great American Bathroom Books, which are embarassing to be seen reading, but were an invaluable resource in high school..
posted by Hildago at 8:29 AM on January 16, 2002

I remember some literary critic (sorry, can't remember who) saying that he finished Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu by reading one page per day. It took him years but he did it, which he never could have done by just sitting down to read the thing.

Obviously some works are intimidating to some readers (for valid reasons or not). Breaking the books up into discrete chunks seems to work for those readers.

Also, I think kids would feel getting an e-mail chunk every day would be kind of cool.
posted by bilco at 9:46 AM on January 16, 2002

Here's an e-mail I received in response to my above comment:

"Just found the thread on Metafilter concerning my website, Classic Novels - In 5 Minutes A Day.. I tried to register to post a reply, but signups seem to be down for the time being. As for the committment, I try to pick novels that don't go over the 9 to 10 week mark. I stuck myself by putting Don Quixote into the voting. Now I check the length of a novel before I put it in the poll :) ... (Quixote is going to be a 200 issue project...)

"As for the CosaNostra Forum.... I've just taken it down. The Brinkster account I was using to host the snitz forum for the site was apparently hijacked by these folks. One day I went to check and they were there. I tried to log into my Brinkster account and couldn't get in. My email address wasn't even recognized to have one sent to me. I contacted the folks at Brinkster and they said that my name/info wasn't on the account, so they couldn't help me. I sent them links to current google search results, showing the same url with a cached image that displayed MY forums. They didn't get back to me. The last I emailed them was to see if I could get the site knocked off since they were violating the TOS (Illegal content.) No response.

"Sorry to rant, just wanted to answer your question. Feel free to post any or all of my comments, or keep 'em to yourself! (signed) Kevin S. Peterson Editor Classic Novels - In 5 Minutes A Day!"
posted by Carol Anne at 6:11 PM on January 16, 2002

« Older Carlyle's way:   |   Ph.d computer science professor fired for... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments