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 […]

On “Quitting Amazon”

Over the past few weeks I’ve been “quitting Amazon,” not so much because I think they’re evil, etc, but just because their recent moves have been so incredibly stupid and tone-deaf that’s it’s hard not to react in some way. I already buy most of my books through local stores, so this has been more a matter of going directly to the manufacturer websites of non-book products Amazon sells. I’ve even found that it’s quite easy and helpful to use Amazon to “showroom” items; i.e., to tap into all of the rich base of knowledge and customer reviews available on that site, and then buy my product elsewhere.

The links on this site go to Amazon, and this will remain so. They’re really the only place that makes affiliate links worthwhile for a meager blogger such as myself, and I don’t want to waste the time trying to patch together an alternative that isn’t going to work anyway.

The links are basically there for people who are going to buy the book through Amazon anyway. You’re all adults, you all have the resources to shop where you want. I don’t think linking to Amazon is going to unduly influence any of you. If you’re going to purchase things through Amazon, please use my links as a small thanks for all this richly opinionated knowledge I purvey. If you’re not going to purchase through Amazon, don’t feel obliged to so, so that I’ll get 7% of your purchase price.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Why Be An Amazon Affiliate? Max runs down some reasons why he uses Amazon for his book links on The Millions. I don't want to rehash all his points, but...
  2. Amazon Stores? William Ackerman, a billionaire with a majority share in Borders, is hoping Amazon will buy up Borders’s bricks and mortars and move in. "Amazon could...
  3. Amazon Purchases Seems like it would be fun and perhaps a bit revealing to check in every so often and see what readers are buying through the...
  4. Reckoning with the Amazon Giant The Boston Review has a fairly good overview of recent changes in the books industry vis a vis the new industry titan, Amazon. I didn't...
  5. Most Popular Amazon Purchases, Q1 & Q2 2010 Those who pay very close attention to this site might have noticed that I didn't do my usual roundup of popular Amazon purchases at the...

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5 comments to On “Quitting Amazon”

  • I’d love to quit Amazon, but unfortunately in large swaths of the country independent book stores suck. The independents here in St. Louis rarely carry what I’m looking for. If the book’s not in stock & I have to order it, then I go with Amazon or Barnes & Noble because their shipping service is so much better.

    It’s frustratingly hard to find the latest smaller presses. Not a single store in St. Louis has any Knausgaard volume in stock right now. My success rate for finding what I’m looking for in stock at a local store is probably around 30%. That makes it hard to resist Amazon.

    • P.T. Smith

      Mike, do the stores have membership programs? The one independent store in my town has a mostly terrible selection, but for a 25 dollar year-membership, I get 20% off any book I buy, including those ordered. I make up for that 25 bucks pretty quickly. If a store you like doesn’t have a program like this, you could try suggesting it to them. It’s the only way it made it feasible for me to stop turning to Amazon for books.

      • That’s a good question – I don’t know. They have loyalty programs (buy 10 books, get $10 off your next purchase). I pay for a B&N membership; I’d definitely be willing to pay for one at a local store. I’m even happy to pay full retail price, as long as the shipping is free and fast.

        It’s also clear to me that for whatever reason, the selection at any single store in St. Louis just isn’t as good as what I find when I travel to bigger places like Chicago or San Francisco.

  • [...] Addendum Just adding in on the comments here, one reason I will mildly defend Amazon is that it gets the books to people who have no other way to get the books. In a lot of places Amazon (or Barnes & Noble) is the only valid way to get books, which does [...]

  • Thomas

    I have the same problem here in Crete. I prefer to order from Book Depository because shipping rates can get high for me out here, or from Abebooks. The problem is that Amazon has bought out both of them.

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