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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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

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


Interviews from Conversational Reading

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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 […]

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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