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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com
  • The Translation BestsellerThe Translation Bestseller

    I wonder if, given the minuscule amount of translated books published each year, but the relative regularity of a bestseller... »
  • Future LibraryFuture Library

    Cool idea. Edouard Levé would have been a fantastic participant. A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka,... »
  • Juan Jose SaerJuan Jose Saer

    You all should really be reading Juan Jose Saer (if you're not already). His books have a very particular feel . . . I could... »
  • In the ArchipelagoIn the Archipelago

    Jill Schoolman, interviewed at BOMB. Hope everybody reading this in the Bay Area will come out to the event with Scholastique... »
  • How They ThinkHow They Think

    Okay, I know it's wrong to respond to clickbait, but—the thing that pisses me off about this is that it's somehow a... »
  • FlamethrowersFlamethrowers

    It's kind of amazing that the NYRB published Frederick Seidel's lazy review of The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, one of last... »
  • Elena FerranteElena Ferrante

    A few months ago when Knausgaard fever was sweeping these States, I saw some people promulgating the argument that if a woman... »
  • Ahh, the MemoriesAhh, the Memories

    Just reminiscing, but now that we're talking about Mitchell it seems relevant to share the time I watched the Cloud Atlas movie... »
  • A Horrified And Sympathetic Response To Michael Haneke’s The Seventh ContinentA Horrified And Sympathetic Response To Michael Haneke’s The Seventh Continent

    So I've got a little something in the latest issue of Drunken Boat. If you'll indulge me in some meta commentary, the origin... »
  • The Strange LibraryThe Strange Library

    I don't really know why, but a new book from Haruki Murakami always seems to have a bit of that wow factor, even though I've... »

You Say

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.


  • 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 […]

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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More from Conversational Reading:

  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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