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 […]

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 I agree with all of them, and if this is something you think about, you should see what he says. Basically, this is the heart of the matter:

When it is suggested that we link to an "indie" when we link to books, the implication is that The Millions is a shopping site and that we can by our linking policy direct people where to shop. But the reality is that The Millions,
like many sites that affiliate with Amazon, has an editorial rather
than an "advertorial" mission, and one reason we link to Amazon is
because it offers the most information about the books we write about,
whether we recommend them or deplore them them. As long-time blogger Matthew Cheney put it recently, "I want a link to give you the most information and options with the fewest clicks."

To his list of reasons, I'll also add one more: reporting. Hands down, Amazon gives me the most information about how I'm doing as an affiliate. With Amazon I can get up-to-the-day sales info and also track it historically. I can know which links are working, how many people clicked what, how they got to the page (although everything is kept completely anonymous). This is a great source of info: for one thing, it has absolutely helped me fine-tune how I use links on this site. For another, I've discovered many new books this way. And it also lets me know when I've discussed books that people are excited about and when I've bored them.

By contrast, Powell's only gives me sales info, which in my opinion is the bare minimum that anyone offering an affiliate program should think of giving. Any less than that, however, and we have a problem. If you're leaving your affiliates in the dark as to something so basic as how much they're earning off your program, you're failing.

Unfortunately, by that measure IndieBound is failing. I recently added an IndieBound searchbox to give readers the alternative to buy books through IndieBound and still support this site and The Quarterly Conversation, but I am disappointed to say that I have completely no idea if 1 or 10 or 100,000 of you have bought a book through my searchbox. IndieBound offers no way to tell whatsoever. (If Amazon did this I can only imagine the consipracy theories of affiliate-cheating that would be on the Internet right now.)

I will grant IndieBound the fact that it's a new site and will possibly improve this in the future, but I sincerely hope that this functionality is in the works.

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  1. 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...
  2. Amazon Fail: The Aftermath Vroman's echoes a point I made about this earlier in the week: Do you want that much power in the hands of one company? Even...
  3. Amazon Can “Wipe Out” Publishers Binky Urban, the agent responsible for a few people you might have heard of (Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Bret Easton Ellis, etc) is profiled at...
  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. Amazon Fail: The Online Giant Censors Content? Apropos of my interview with Ted Striphas, I want to discuss the weekend's news that Amazon is/was censoring books with "questionable" content–"questionable" in this case...

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4 comments to Why Be An Amazon Affiliate?

  • Wow did not know IndieBound doesn’t provide that information. My merchant who sells health and beauty products would never allow that to happen because you are basically hiding from your affiliates.

  • I’ve stuck with Amazon for the same reasons. I’d much rather support Powell’s or IndieBound or even LibraryThing, but none of them works nearly as well as Amazon. Another reason is the easy integration with TypePad for creating book list widgets.
    There’s a company called Adaptive Blue that has some sort of book link code that on mouse-over pops up a choice of what store to go to. I looked into it a while back as an alternative but decided it was too heavyweight/obtrusive. Otherwise it’s a nice concept that could help with some of these issues, I think.

  • Kevin,
    Max makes the good point that a lot of indie stores do make money off of Amazon through used and new sales, so helping Amazon does occasionally help them.
    However, how cool would it be if IndieBound could set up a similar interface that indies could use to do the same, but on better terms?
    I think this is the issue: A lot of us sympathize with indies more, and in fact we want a counterweight to Amazon, but the problem is that no one has yet stepped up to offer a service that works nearly as well. Amazonfail revealed a lot of pent up anger, and a Barnes & Noble, or a consortium of indies, could definitely take advantage of that sentiment if they created a service that could seriously compete with Amazon.

  • Thanks for addressing this. I responded to Max’s post so I won’t repeat it here, but since you raised some additional concerns I wanted to respond to those as well.
    About two weeks ago we made some updates to our affiliate program and let everyone know that online sales tracking is coming soon. Previously a report was sent along with payment. Now we’re undergoing a huge migration for all ABA IndieCommerce sites to an open-source platform, and online options for tracking and reporting will be available once enough sites have transitioned. We’re also working on widgets for affiliate links, and hope to work with WordPress and TypePad on integrating that code into their templates.
    Regarding used book sellers: some indies sell used books through AbeBooks; that’s their choice. Many sell through Alibris, an alternative site. We couldn’t provide an avenue for ABA member stores to compete with each other on price, which is the nature of those sites. IndieBound is for new books only, and that won’t change.
    Thanks for including us as an alternative search. Like I wrote to Max, independents aren’t asking for exclusivity, only to be included as a choice. IndieBound.org is a huge, ongoing project that we’re constantly working on, so feedback is helpful.

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