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.


  • 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 […]

The Lit City Study, Pt II

In the comments field to yesterday’s Lit City post, Bud Parr raises some significant objections. There’s four main sortcomings he sees in the study:

1. The study regarded quantity of bookstores over quality, i.e., a boutique gift-bookstore counted for as much as a Tattered Cover or a Elliot Bay or a City Lights.2. Readings and other literary events were not considered at all in the study.3. It appears that universities (and possibly their libraries) were not counted, and/or not weighted for in the study.4. Socio-economics. Bigger cities are going to take a huge hit for having significant populations . . . continue reading, and add your comments

How Lit is YOUR City?

In what is destined to become the New Year’s Weekend topic of conversation, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater presents the 2004 edition of their study, America’s Most Literate Cities. (thanks to GalleyCat for the link)

Some of the ranks come off as a little funny (for instance, is Los Angeles really the 68th most literate city in the country?), but there’s lots of interesting information here. It ranks the top periodical publishers by the number of magazines with circulation over 2,500 and the number of journals over 500 published in a city. I don’t see the actual . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Medium of Fiction

A while back I literally pulled William Gass’s Fiction and the Figures of Life out of a dump. There were these bookshelves where anyone could leave or take books, and I guess periodically the shelves get cleared out with the rest of the trash in the junkyard. Anyway, like most books I get for $1 or less, I stuck it somewhere in my apartment and promptly forgot it existed. I finally got around to looking through it and Gass’s writing is quite interesting.

In this collection is a short work entitled "The Medium of Fiction." It’s brief–only 7 . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Lit Journals

The NYTBR has an article on literary journals. It’s pretty  much "gee whiz, look at all this QUIRKY stuff going on UNDER THE RADAR." Really, I’d satirize it more but I’m tired. I apologize. (I’ve had a long day.)

"There are more literary magazines out there than ever, and it’s an important part of the literary world’s unsung heroes," said Jeffrey Lependorf, executive director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, founded to help literary magazines compete in the marketplace. "If you’re interested in experimental poetry there’s a journal for you. If you’re interested in Southern culture, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Recent Readings

"There’s more profit in an hour’s talk with Billy Graham than in a reading of Joyce."–Gilbert Sorrentino, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things___________________________________________

"A friend asked me to explain how we were adapting ["Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail"] for the stage, and I thought about it and said, ‘O.K., you know how, in the movie, there’s a cow that flies out of a castle and lands on a page? Well, in the musical, the cow has a singing part.’"–Mike Nichols on the upcoming Monty Python Broadway musical, "Spamalot," from The New Yorker, 12/20, 12/27___________________________________________

"Time itself had been . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Why review?

There’s an interesting discussion going around the blogs on the proper role of book reviews. Dan Green sums the discussion up in this post (I’ve added a comment to Dan’s post, so see that if you’re interested in my take).

BTW, I recently read the infamous McSweeney’s essay on snark. I only mention this because it seems (at least for the time being) inextricably tied to any discussion of what reviews should do. I found the essay a little haphazard. It is very erudite and brings in some good facts, but I didin’t really see it . . . continue reading, and add your comments

John Henry Days — Colson Whitehead

John Henry Days, Colson Whitehead (Anchor Books: 2001)

"Race and Modernity in Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist", Michael Berube, published in The Holodeck in the Garden: Contemporary American Fiction (Dalkey Archive: 2004)

"E Unibus Pluram", David Foster Wallace, published in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (Back Bay Books: 1997)

The Soul of Wit

1.

Right about now, irony and sarcasm are pretty hot stocks. They were the magic at the center of the 1990’s most popular, and most clever, sit-com (Seinfeld), they’re used in commercials every day to sell products, and, really, they’re a big . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things

After hearing Gilbert Sorrentino’s name tossed around on a couple notable blogs, I knew I would have to check him out sooner or later. I had a few books I wanted to get to before Sorrentino, but last week I finally picked up Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things and so far I have not been disappointed.

I’ll say that Sorrentino’s style takes a minute to get used to. Even though I had heard that he eschews plot and is highly experimental, I still was taken aback by the abrupt shifts and long narrator-reader monologues that often come . . . continue reading, and add your comments

When You Have Too Many Books

Consider this a service from one reader to another. Although in the abstract the concept of too many books may seem nonsensical (like "too much oxygen"), be forewarned that there is a definite threshold beyond which further accumulation of books can be detrimental. In some cases, it may ruin your life.

It is often difficult to judge for yourself if you have too many books. In fact, one of the most insiduous things about the overaccumulation of books is that you are often not aware that you have a problem until it is too late.

In this spirit, I . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Recent Readings

“The room was filled with smoke, dry worn-out smoke retaining in it like a web the insective cadavers of dry husks of words which had been spoken and should be gone, the breaths exhaled not to be breathed again.” (194)

–William Gaddis, The Recognitions

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“Hands on, garmet off. She had no idea what she wanted him to do, but it was off . . . continue reading, and add your comments