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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 Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

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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