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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

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. 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...
  4. 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...
  5. On Bookish, Finding Great Books, Outwitting Amazon, Etc I don’t really know a whole lot about serendipitous online discovery or whatever the buzzword is for suddenly coming across a book you love while...

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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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