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.

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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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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.

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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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Interviews from Conversational Reading

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


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    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
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    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
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  • 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 […]
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  • 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 […]

Reading on the Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Reading George Eliot on Kindle


Andrew Seal has finished reading all of Middlemarch on the Amazon Kindle, and he has a report of his experiences therein.

I found this report particularly useful since Andrew’s reading habits seem to parallel mine in a number of ways. He likes a lot of physical interaction with a book while he reads it (underlining, annotating, etc), and he reads a lot of the classic works of the English language, which one would assume would be a perfect match for the Kindle (because they’re free in the public domain).

On that latter point, Andrew says something a little interesting:

Middlemarch is, like many public domain books, free to download through the Kindle store, although people who get frustrated by inessential details might find the frequent errors in paragraphing irritating enough to shell out the few dollars for an official release. (Basically, the problem is that there are too many new lines—paragraphs break in the middle—but in almost all cases it is after a sentence, and the new lines aren’t indented, so it’s easy to tell where a real new paragraph begins. There are also a handful of simple typographical errors probably resulting from a visual scanning program—Balstrode for Bulstrode occurs maybe about four times. At any rate, I will continue reading free copies when I can.) Additionally, Project Gutenberg has a lovely option for downloading a Kindle-friendly file of its texts—the mobi. Some public domain books (like Jude the Obscure, strangely) are not available in a free edition in the Kindle store, so this is quite useful.

I’ll agree that a few out-of-place line breaks and obvious misspellings here and there aren’t going to ruin anyone’s reading experience, but it is noteworthy to see that this sort of thing has become to tolerable, especially with a classic novel. I think for most of us, if we saw similar errors in a print work, those would immediately be marks against the work, or at least the work’s publisher. But in the case of Kindle + free + George Eliot, such mistakes become wholly acceptable. It’s an interesting set of norms that building up around e-texts, and I wonder if it doesn’t speak to our era where nothing is really permanent and everything can be instantly corrected and republished.

But beyond that, Andrew’s remarks on the annotation functionality offered by the Kindle isn’t making me want to drop my pencil:

You can “highlight” blocks of text, and you can write notes, both of which are viewable when reading back through the text, but which are also collected in a file called “My Clippings” which displays all these highlighted selections and notes along with the “location” of the source in the text and the time you created it. (One related note: I have yet to figure out how to, or if I can, get the current time of day to display on the Kindle.) This has its uses and its drawbacks—it’s nice to have everything collected and ordered in one place to obviate incessant flippings through the pages, but it also means that if you’re reading more than one thing at a time, then the “clippings” quickly get a little jumbled. I was reading some of Pope’s poetry (also free, and it displays fine) earlier this month, so there are a bunch of highlighted selections from that which interrupt the chain of notes and highlights from Middlemarch. It’s very easy to figure out which is which, but I can imagine that if I were reading and marking up four or five texts at once, it might grow tedious. More generally, the “My Clippings” file should really be something more like a sortable spreadsheet rather than a simple text file—capable of being ordered not only by date, but also by source; its navigability could be greatly improved. Similarly, there are unfortunately no hyperlinks to take you to the “location” in the text from which the “clipping” comes; you have to copy down the numbered location, go to the actual text, and search for that location—it works, but again it’s tedious.

Frankly, that sounds like a nightmare. I do think that the Kindle’s ability to search a text for a word or phrase would be very helpful (I already do this fairly frequently for Google Book), but the clippings element sounds like it needs a lot of work. I’d rather just stick with the system I’ve devised for keying in on parts of a printed novel that I think I’m going to want to come back to.

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3 comments to Reading on the Kindle

  • I completely agree – I use the Kindle to take notes while doing developmental editing, and while it’s fine for the initial note-taking (unless I have a lot to say), the process of actually extracting the notes and getting them somewhere useful for the author is a total disaster.

    If there were some kind of “comment mode” that would let you cycle through your comments and see a large portion of the surrounding text, that would be brilliant!

  • I have had a Kindle since March 2009, and have mostly been using it as described. I read a lot of classics, and I like to underline and take notes.

    I think Seal missed one feature. When you are within a particular book, you CAN look at the notes from just that book, and you can click a hyperlink to go directly to the passage.

    I actually find this much less tedious than flipping through a paper book to find a passage I’ve underlined.

    However, making annotations is horrible, and I usually do that on my computer..

    All in all, I think it’s a great value considering all the free public domain books you can read on it. You also get free internet. (Which is very clunky but free and I’ve utilized it quite a few times)

  • Erin,

    I’ve found that extracting notes and highlights to be quite easy. If you plug your kindle into your computer, all your notes and highlights are contained in a text file. You can then paste into Word, search for, and manipulate the text however you want.

    If you want to extract a passage from a book, this is far easier than if you had a regular book, in which case you’d have to retype the passage yourself.

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