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

Shop though these links = Support this site


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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

Favorite Reads of 2014

Lila by Marilynne Robinson
This isn’t my favorite Marilynne Robinson book by a long shot, but even not-the-best Marilynne Robinson is waaaayy ahead of most books out there.

Red or Dead by David Peace
Very few books make me want to stand up and yell and start building shit. This is one of them.

The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol
Not actually published yet (March 2015), I read this book while editing the translation. It is mostly awesome and makes me realize how badly the English language has missed Sergio Pitol.

Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano
A great first bite of the Modiano apple. I can’t wait to get to more.

Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin
A little East Asia, a little French philosophy, a little Clarice Lispector. A bracing, deep, sensual read.

Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente
First novels don’t get much better than this. Giralt started his career doing a damn good impression of Javier Marías, and now he’s on another level.

Father and Son by Marcos Giralt Torrente
And this is a good idea of where Giralt has managed to climb since Paris.

Life and Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee
Reminds me of Kafka’s “The Burrow.” One of my favorite Kafka stories of all time.

Capital by Thomas Piketty
An essential economics book. An essential guide to where we are and how we got here. I’m certain this is already being used as a textbook, and it should be taught for decades to come.

Postwar by Tony Judt
I could say the same about this book. A great book to read alongside Piketty. Tries to tell the story of postwar Europe in one fell swoop, and does a better job than anything else I’ve ever read.

Reappraisals by Tony Judt
Drawer-clearing essay collections have a bad rap where I’m from. But when it’s Judt, it’s like having a grad-level course in European intellectual movements. And You want to read Judt on anything, again and again and again.

The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi
If you’re not already convinced of this book’s importance, I don’t know what I could possibly say.

What Would Lynne Tillman Do? by Lynne Tillman
Read this book, spend a week in Lynne Tillman’s mind, never come back, be a better person for it.

Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz
Gombrowicz didn’t write that many novels, but he made each one count. Life in Buenos Aires by the stranded Pole who thought Borges was overrated.

The Bourgeois by Franco Moretti
Moretti packs a hell of a lot into this book. Genuinely new takes on 19th-century books and ideas that you probably thought were exhausted.

The Whole Equation by David Thomson
Nobody loves Hollywood like David Thomson. I’m talking about a 40-year-old marriage that’s been difficult, but you just can’t quit it. And he tells the whole damn story, like a man in loveship and hateship.

Varieties of Exile by Mavis Gallant
Te read Mavis Gallant is to understand that some people actually do have ESP, or have lived multiple lives, or somehow have been granted entry into the thoughts and minds of other people.

The Iliad by Homer
A cornerstone of the edifice we call reality.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Very solid first book of an acclaimed writer’s magnum opus.

The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes
The book that introduced jouissance to the English language. I always want to be reading a book of Barthes’ when I’m writing something important.

The Prison-House of Literature by Fredric Jameson
An amazing, concise, brilliant synthesis of the two major literary theoretical movements to come out of linguistics.

Proust and Signs by Gilles Deleuze
A fascinating, original theory of Proust.

On Being Blue by William H. Gass
Possibly my favorite Gass book. Literary criticism that manages to propel itself into a purely creative work of art.

The Sense of an Ending by Frank Kermode
A pretty original theory of how stories function.

Augustus by John Williams
I think this is generally regarded as the third-best novel John Williams wrote. And it would be the first-best book of just about anyone else.

Confessions of Felix Krull by Thomas Mann
This was the book Mann was writing when he passed away. So in other words, he died right at the apex of a 50-year-long literary prime. I’ve never read a book that succeeded in conning me.

The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson
This book doesn’t really work overall, and a lot of the writing could have been much better. But the parts where Nelson is on, she’s really on, and these parts are thought-provoking and introduced me to many important thinkers. Anyone interested int he legacy of modernism would do well to read this.

The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
The novel of the Mexican Revolution. Possibly the greatest Mexican novel ever. A little Conrad, a little Fuentes.

Literchoor Is My Beat by Ian MacNiven
Inspiring tale of the man who created New Directions.

Kissing the Mask by William T. Vollmann
The last Vollmann book I really, really liked. Read it alongside Seiobo There Below.

Tlooth by Harry Mathews
Reading this meant there are no longer any Harry Mathews novels in the world that I haven’t read. I could only wait so long. And yes, I know he’s rumored to be working on one.

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
When I joked that this woman might be Helen DeWitt, people took it seriously. Because she’s that good, and she is a damn lot like DeWitt.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso
This book is a brick, and intense, and god damn erudite. It tells you a lot about where myths come from, and where our myths come from.

Let Me Tell You by Paul Griffiths
Ophelia’s side of Hamlet, in her own words—literally. This is an Oulipian-themed work where Griffiths only used words given to Ophelia. The result is an amazingly personal, evocative voice that reminded me of The Testament of Mary.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin
The best book under 100 pages I read this year. Toibin is a writer who can write in the voice of freaking Mary Magdalene and live up to it.

The Albertine Workout by Anne Carson
Another great response to Proust.

A Million Windows by Gerald Murnane
Murnane’s newest book proves that he’s still enlarging on the creative vision he’s been espousing for virtually his entire career. Truly like nothing else out there.

A Lifetime on Clouds by Gerald Murnane
Murnane’s second novel. About a teenage boy and his masturbation fantasies. In my opinion, far better than Portnoy.

Clarice: The Visitor by Idra Novey
Beautiful poems born of translations of Clarice Lispector.

La Grande by Juan Jose Saer
The masterwork from one of the most masterful Argentine writers to ever live.

Balzac: A Biography by Graham Robb
This is really how biographies should be written. Erudite, with a novelist’s command of language, but never descending to something hackneyed, like trying to write a novel starring Balzac.

The Human Comedy (Selected Stories) by Honoré de Balzac
One should read a little Balzac every year. This stuff is still relevant, and it’s still thrilling.

Michael Hofmann on Richard Flanagan

The NYRB should really get this guy to review Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North has the scope of a big and ambitious novel. It was surely a difficult book to write, covering so much in terms of time, geography, cultures, destinies and outcomes: both an important but difficult piece of Australian history (brave, but also inglorious), and a fictional account, to boot, of the experience of Flanagan’s father, who, as one read in the press, died on the very day the book was completed. (It is said there is nothing of which one knows less and that fascinates one more than the period immediately preceding one’s birth.) The book was described as having gone through many drafts, with Flanagan using those that didn’t make it to ‘light the barbie’. I can’t help thinking this wasn’t the right one to spare.

Coetzee’s Short Stories

Just published by Text Publishing.

J.M. Coetzee swims strongly against the ebbing tide. Not only has Text Publishing brought out his new collection, it is an expensively produced hardback in pale blue with elegant gilt lettering. That is unusual enough, but more extraordinarily there are only three stories, none of them lengthy – the book totals 71 pages, with a large, generously laid-out typeface. All were written between 2000 and 2003, the most recent being a tale he read aloud at the ceremony when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The first Perec

In the TLS, Lauren Elkin reviews Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere, aka Geroges Perec’s lost first novel.

In 1966, after the success of his first novel Les Choses: Une histoire des années soixante, which won him the Prix Renaudot as well as the critical respect he craved, Georges Perec was finally in a position to leave his small apartment of 35 square metres and move to a larger one. He carefully packed up his manuscripts into a box, including Le Condottiere, his previous “first novel”, which Gallimard bought in 1959 and then . . . continue reading, and add your comments

20 Books at 38

I’m surprised to learn Andres Newman is so young. Also, great overview of his books in English.

Andrés Neuman is unthreatened by borders. If writers are born in response to trauma, then Neuman, the writer, emerged when his family fled Argentina for Granada when he was fourteen, in 1991. Eight years later, his first novel, Bariloche, was awarded first runner up for the Herralde Prize. Roberto Bolaño immediately read it and set down the words that still grace the back covers of all Neuman’s books: “The literature of the twenty-first century would belong to Andrés Neuman and . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Future Modiano

The Complete Review has the details of the future Englishing of our most recent Nobel laureate.

And also, sales figures. For whatever reason, Modiano has proven one of the more commercially viable Laureates of the recent past:

One of his most famous works, Missing Person, which is published by David R. Godine, had sold just 2,031 copies before the prize was announced in October, and has since sold more than 13,600 copies. Yale University Press has sold more than 30,000 copies of Suspended Sentences, a collection of three novellas by Mr. Modiano that was published last . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38

Issue 38 right here. or TOC after the jump.

Continue reading Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38

On Kafka

Rivka Galchen on the new Kafka bio by Reiner Stach.

I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for long enough inevitably develops a few singular, unassimilable and slightly silly convictions. (The graph may be parabolic, with the highest incidence of convictions – and the legal resonance is invited – found among those who have spent the most time thinking and those who have spent next to no time thinking.) My own such amateur conviction is that the life of Franz Kafka reads like a truly great comedy. I mean this (of course) . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Me on Modiano

My review of Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano.

The most focused of the book’s three diffuse novellas is “Afterimage.” Here, the narrator merely wants to “relate the little I know” about the photographer Francis Jansen, whom he befriended 30 years ago in the 1960s. Almost immediately we are confronted with an enormous question: Friends with Robert Capa and a Parisian street photographer for Magnum, Jansen suddenly leaves everything behind for a reclusive life in Mexico. In vignettes rarely more than a couple of pages long, the narrator pores over every moment of their relationship like a . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Elena Ferrante Interviewed

At the NY TImes. I’m currently reading Book 1.

Q. You insist on anonymity and yet are developing a cult following, especially among women, first in Italy and now in the United States and beyond. How do you feel about the reception of your books in the United States in recent years, and your growing readership, especially after James Wood’s review in The New Yorker in January 2013?

A. I appreciated James Wood’s review very much. The critical attention that he dedicated to my books not only helped them find readers but in a way it . . . continue reading, and add your comments