A young Franz Kafka

Simon and Schuster joins HarperCollins and Hachette in dropping protections on its e-book pricing, and working with e-retailers to set prices.

Bids are starting at 42,000 euros for a letter in which an especially neurotic Franz Kafka describes his “naked fear” of mice: “it's certainly related to the unexpected, unwanted, unavoidable, sort of mute, grim, secret-purposeful appearance of these animals, with the feeling that they have dug hundreds of tunnels through the walls around me and are lurking there..." The letter, which was sent to Max Brod, goes on sale this week in Germany.

At Poetry, Elliott Holt enrolls in an “massive open online course” (or, a MOOC) on modern American poetry, and reports on what it’s like to be one of 36,000 students in a virtual classroom. The professor and the teaching assistants “are like reality-show TV contestants: regular people who suddenly have a huge audience. They don’t seem to be aware of the camera, of the more than 30,000 people watching them discuss poems.”

Zadie Smith names Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams as her best book of 2012.

Amazon is gearing up to sell “millions” of tablet readers in Brazil—even though none are available at the moment, and when the WiFi Kindle does go on sale within the next few weeks, it’s going to be more than twice as expensive as it is in the U.S.

The Missouri Review digs up and reprints an early David Foster Wallace essay about “serious rap,” and why it appeals to middle-class white guys. “The music's paranoia, together with its hermetic racial context, helps explain why from the outside it appears to us just as vibrant and impassioned as it does alien and scary.”

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