The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

How to Turn a Kindle Into a Brick

A poster named "Ian" in a forum on the website MobileRead (a website for people who read books on mobile devices) has made the following claims about Amazon's Kindle in a posting entitled "Amazon has banned my account – my Kindle is now a (partial) brick":

I have been a loyal Amazon.com customer for many years, but today, I received an email stating that I have been banned from the site and my account has been closed, because I apparently have an extraordinary rate of requesting refunds due to a variety of factors. . . .

I have now discovered that I cannot manage my Kindle2 account (I can't log into Amazon) or purchase any new content.

In effect, I now have a $359 brick, not covered under any warranty, not able to be used the way it was meant to be, not able to be returned (not that I even want to, I just want to keep reading!)

I called customer service several times today; the supervisors there explained that I cannot use the Kindle store but "I can get content onto the machine different ways."

While I can't speak to the fairness of Ian's banning from Amazon's site, his story does bring up some important issues about consumers' rights in the age of electronic texts that we are slowly but surely entering. This is something that I touched on briefly in my interview with Ted Striphas and something that Striphas goes into in considerable detail in his book, The Late Age of Print.

Whether or not Ian is making truthful claims, his story highlights the fact that consumer rights and concepts of copyright are changing as we move more and more into electronic media. One poster to the forum suggests that in banning Ian, Amazon is attempting to protect its rights as a bookseller:

Sorry, Ian. I think you appear to Amazon to fit the profile of someone who buys books and holds them long enough to strip the DRM and then return the book.

Amazon does have every right to protect itself, just as Ian has every right to demand fair treatment. These are boundaries that are currently being negotiated, but make no mistake: when you buy an ebook, you are not buying a book. You are getting a different concept of fair use.

Consumers should be aware that just because a Kindle or a Sony Reader attempts to recreate the experience of reading a book, it doesn't mean that Amazon or Sony consider themselves to be selling you the same rights that you purchase when you buy a book.

I haven't yet bought an e-reader, and I don't plan to anytime soon, but people who embrace this medium should do so knowing that they're getting a different set of consumer rights. If you don't like what you're getting, demand more.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. More Kindle Legal Troubles Hot on the heels of Amazon's potential legal battle with Author's Guild over the Kindle's text-to-speech feature, Discovery Communications is filing a lawsuit over patent...
  2. Kindle Sales? After I noted Citi’s suspicious 500,000 sales figure for the Kindle, some commenters from major cities (NYC, Chicago) registered the copious non-presence of Kindles in...
  3. The Problem with the Kindle This is the biggest problem with the Kindle: Amazon must address the needs of very real readers who read only a few books and magazines...
  4. Kindle 2: Minor Upgrades, No Major Features Being reported everywhere (see for instance, the NYT’s blogging the launch), Amazon released its Kindle 2 yesterday. Publishers Lunch sums up the upgrade: Kindle 2...
  5. Authors Guild: Seriously, We Want a Piece of Kindle 2 A couple weeks back I reported that Authors Guild was looking into legal action over Kindle 2's "read aloud" feature. Apparently this was not some...

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1 comment to How to Turn a Kindle Into a Brick

  • I don’t know what embracing the medium entails (does one have to get rid of all ones print books?) but I’ve had an e-reader since last year, use it every day to read things I wouldn’t be able to read in comfort otherwise (PDFs from Princeton UP’s website is one small example) and have yet to buy one ebook.
    In Ian’s case, perhaps the problem is that he is “a consumer” rather than a reader.

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