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.

  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

Music & Literature Issue 5

Music & Literature has revealed the table of contents for Issue 5, and it is pretty awesome. Have a look.

If you don’t know M&L’s deal, the idea is that they pick 3 artists/authors/musicians for each issue and create in-depth folios of writing around their work. Said folios also include original work from the subjects themselves. It’s extremely impressive to see the level of contributors and collaborators that M&L has managed to tap in just over two years of existence as a journal.

In Issue 5, the foci are Kaija Saariaho, Can Xue, and Stig Sæterbakken, the last of whom I’m contributing a rather long essay on.

The Saeterbakken portfolio also includes a number of never-before-in-English essays by Saeterbakken. I had the immense pleasure of reading them in advance (since my piece deals largely with the essays), and they are quite amazing. Whether you love Saeterbakker or are new to his work, you’re going to want to read these essays.

Nobel Speculation

It’s that time of year again.

I tend to think that the speculation is pretty pointless, since it always ends up that Haruki Murakami and XXXX (the past few years it’s been Ngugi wa Thiong’o) are the odds-on favorites for about 4 months, until the last 6 hours or so, when there’s a sudden break toward the eventual winner, who is somebody nobody ever guessed would win the prize. But it’s still fun.

Laszlo Krasznahorkai is nowhere to be seen in the betting pools, which is a bit of a surprise. Surely his profile has been rising, and the increasing number of books in English would improve his chances. And with the things that are happening in Hungary these days, surely the Swedish Academy would love having him as a representative dissident.

But who the hall really knows what’s no their minds. If they just said fuck it and gave it Knausgaard, that would be pretty awesome.

Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires

One of the cool things about Cortázar is that there is still a lot of him untranslated. So you can find out that things like this exist:

Fantômas, the creation of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre (in their 1911 novel and then dozens of sequels), was appropriated and re-imagined in the Mexican comic-books series, Fantomas, la amenaza elegante. Issue 201 of the comic book-series, La inteligencia en llamas, finds Fantomas battling a plot to destroy all the books in the world — Operation ‘Gabriel’s Sword’. Part of the story has Fantomas calling on leading intellectual lights of the day — Susan Sontag, Alberto Moravia, Octavio Paz, and Julio Cortázar — as he tries to figure out what’s going on and what can be done about it. Cortázar was given the comic by a friend, and inspired to write this short novel, integrating the comic-story into his own (as several pages and panels from the comic are used as illustrations — and, indeed, part of the story — in Cortázar’s novel).

Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires finds ‘the narrator’ (as Cortázar consistently refers to himself — he doesn’t present the story in the first person) picking up a copy of the comic at a newsstand as he rushes to catch the train back to Paris from Brussels, where he had been participating in the 1975 Second Russell Tribunal, on Repression in Brazil, Chile, and Latin America (the book includes an Appendix with the Tribunal-findings0. He’s embarrassed to be seen reading a comic book in the train, but this story of bibliocide — the large-scale destruction and disappearance of books everywhere — makes for a decent plot; still, distracted by the attractive , high-heeled woman opposite him, he only gets so far in the story before they arrive in Paris. He soon finds out the comic is more true-to-life than seems possible, getting a call from Susan Sontag when he arrives home — amusingly getting ahead of himself, as he hasn’t quite gotten to that point in the comic-book story; Sontag tells him to go on reading until he’s caught up and then call him back.

And also at 3:AM Magazine.

There Are Critics and then There Are Critics

Nice response from Jon Baskin at The Point to AO Scott’s recent essay (and the many responses thereto).

Jon spends a good deal of his time deconstructing the fact that even though Scott opens his essay with a sweeping and provocative statement, he spends the bulk of his essay hedging on that stance and worrying about whether he can even make a statement like that.

And I think this points to two kinds of critics. You have the critics like Scott, who are very good at reacting to new books and films, and who can usually . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Marcos Giralt Torrente

My piece covering two new translations of books by Marcos Giralt Torrente—Paris and Father and Son: A Lifetime—has just been published at The B&N Review.

Giralt has been one of my key discoveries of recent years, and you all should read him. He’s a Spaniard in the tradition of Marías.

In 1998 Roberto Bolaño cemented his place as a leading writer of his generation when he received the prestigious Herralde Prize for his novel The Savage Detectives. In the next year he helped to launch a career with that same Herralde Prize: Bolaño was one of five . . . continue reading, and add your comments

A Little Lumpen Novelita

The latest Bolaño, reviewed at M&L.

In one of the monologues that make up the long middle section of Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, the eccentric architect Quim Font attempts a taxonomy of reading. There are books, he tells us, for when you’re happy and when you’re sad, for when you’re bored and when you’re calm. There are books for the mature, imagined as staid, proper men who frequent novels and literary magazines (“a cool-headed, mature, educated man leading a more or less healthy life”). And then there are the opposite, books for the puerile, which are . . . continue reading, and add your comments


I don’t really think poetry written for print works in the electronic format. You can make an argument that there isn’t a whole lot of loss when prose is digitized, but with poetry that argument is a lot harder to defend. (Of course, nothing should stop poets from writing poetry that plays with the limitations/enhancements of electronic media, and that would suck if it were to be printed out.)

That said, bless them for trying this hard to make poetry work on e-readers.

“The first impression you have of a poem is looking at the shape . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Issue 37 of The Quarterly Conversation

Here it is. If you’re the kind that doesn’t like to just jump into things, full TOC after the jump.

Continue reading Issue 37 of The Quarterly Conversation

The Translation Bestseller

I wonder if, given the minuscule amount of translated books published each year, but the relative regularity of a bestseller every year or so, if translations aren’t actually more likely to be bestsellers than native lit.

Future Library

Cool idea. Edouard Levé would have been a fantastic participant.

A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes . . . continue reading, and add your comments