some people asked to see it earlier this week.)" />

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.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

20 20th-Century Poetry Books

For more lists, have a look at this page.

Here is the list of 20 20th-century poetry books that poet and editor CJ Evans put together for me. (I’m posting this because some people asked to see it earlier this week.)

Some caveats: CJ was quick to say that this isn’t a “best of” or “required reading” list. This was simply his response to my question, “I want to know more about poetry–what do you recommend?” Also, I/we know Emily Dickinson didn’t write in the 20th century. No need to point that out.

Ten Classics
Wallace Stevens — Collected Works
Emily Dickinson — Master Letters
John Ashbery — Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
Louis Zukofsky – A
John Berryman — The Dream Songs
Sylvia Plath — Ariel (esp. the “Bee Poems”)
Cesar Vallejo — Trilce (trans. by Eshleman)
Zbigniew Herbert — Mr. Cogito
Lyn Hejinian — My Life
Gertrude Stein — Tender Buttons

Ten Contemporaries
Mary Ruefle — Various
D.A. Powell — Chronic (or Cocktails)
Mary Jo Bang — Elegy
Zachary Schomburg — The Man Suit
Jenny Boully — The Body
Timothy Donnelly — The Cloud Corporation
Sam Amadon — Like a Sea
Inger Christensen — alphabet
Claudia Rankine — Don’t Let Me Be Lonely
Rae Armantrout

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  1. 20th-Century Compositions A couple weeks ago, New Yorker critic Alex Ross gave an MP3-driven tour of 20th-century composition. These are works that do "not to represent all...
  2. New Poetry Wanted Poetry Magazine calls for new poetry: A new poetry becomes necessary not because we want one, but because the way poets have learned to write...
  3. 21st Century Lit It’s obviously a little early for this, but fun nonetheless: The Millions speculates about a 21st-century literature syllabus. They’re doing it on behalf of an...
  4. Top Ten Books I Read This Year Right about now everyone and their mother is coming out with a list of the top ten books from 2004. I’m not sure that I’m...
  5. The Ulysses of Poetry Recently, I've been getting into 20th-century poetry in a fairly serious way. I've read Plath, I've read Eliot, I've read a good chunk of Wallace...

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7 comments to 20 20th-Century Poetry Books

  • Trilce is a favorite. Published the same year as The Waste Land, it really makes Eliot’s poem look straight forward.

    Have you read Joyce Mansour? How about Mina Loy, Anna Akhmatova, Roque Dalton, Ernesto Cardenal, Vicente Huidobro, Raul Zurita, Yehuda Amichai?

  • pd

    Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry: 1945-1960 should not be overlooked. Absolutely essential and a great starting place.

  • Have you read T.S. Eliot? (Not in school, I mean. But really read him.) What about Robert Lowell? Marianne Moore? Ezra Pound? Allen Ginsberg? If we’re talking MUST read, in order to know where so much of the 20th Century tradition came from… these books are all definitely good. Read them. But read The Cantos before you pick up A; Life Studies and then The Dream Songs. It seems like some steps have been skipped.

  • And what about Rainer Maria Rilke? There are so many reasons why he inspires close reading and constant new translations in English. He died in 1926 yet in his concerns and sensibility has so much to say that is perfect for these times, especially in regard to a non-religious, non-dogmatic, authentically mysterious and spacious spirituality. He is THE 20th-c poet of “the deepest things”.www.stephaniedowrick.com

  • Alicia Louise

    I am so happy to see Hejinian on this list.

  • Alex

    Please don’t neglect Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets, it absolutely belongs with the other classics on that list.

    Also, if you care for Hugh Kenner’s criticism, his book A Homemade World does an excellent job treating the experiments of certain major poets (Stevens, WCWilliams, Moore, Zukofsky, Olson). He also wrote Joyce’s Voices, a short book on Ulysses that helped me tremendously when I took a Joyce class in undergrad.

  • [...] more “classic” books. He asked me the other day if he could post the list on his blog Conversational Reading and I was at first a little hesitant to let [...]

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