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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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 […]

2666–The Big Book of BEA?

Chad Post is declaring 2666 the "big book" of BEA

Jeff’s comments about how they marketed The Savage Detectives and what they’re doing for 2666
was fascinating to me. (As I told him afterwards, I think Jeff’s one of
the most brilliant publicists out there and I could spend a whole panel
simply interviewing him.) In a very real way, 2666 may be the “Big Book” of BEA
2008 that I claimed didn’t exist in my last post. Jeff said the
response has been overwhelming and that they gave out 400 copies (!) of
the galley at the book fair. I know print runs smaller than that . . .

He was incredibly honest about facts and figures related to The Savage Detectives,
revealing that in the catalog they put the initial print run at
35,000-40,000 and that based on advances in the mid-teens (16-17,000)
the first printing was in the low-20s. All of which is remarkable. The
Natasha Wimmer essay was a huge help in creating a context for
reviewers to approach the book, as was the website they specially
created for this book. Jeff gave both New Directions and FSG
editor Lorin Stein a lot of credit for helping make Bolano take off,
even saying that three-in-one paperback set was an idea of Lorin’s.

Since we’re talking 2666 and sales potential, I might as will blog a little about why I’m not sure 2666 will have the same appeal as TSD did.

During BEA I finally got to meet Martin Riker of the Dalkey Archive Press, and one of the things we talked about were my ongoing impressions of 2666. I really think this is a book that requires a good deal of patience from the reader, and it’s somewhat atypical among the Bolano I’ve read in that it moves extremely slowly and doesn’t have any really compelling characters.

That’s not to say that I have an unfavorable view of the book (I’ve yet to make up my mind); just that its not exactly the Bolano that people who have read the translations thus far will know.

Martin had an interesting response to this. His impression was that Bolano, especially in The Savage Detectives, had been sold as an author that pulls you in from the start and keeps holding on all the way through. His impression was that this was no small factor in this book’s broad popularity.

I can’t comment on the degree to which this is true, but, if this is true, then I think a lot of people are going to have their expectations of 2666 challenged once they start reading the book. That is, if they’re expecting something that "pulls you in," I don’t think they’ll find that in 2666.

Just to give an example, right now I’m reading a 300-page section right in the heart of 2666. This part, I think, is the main part of this book.It’s largely comprised of short (1- to 2-page) police-style narrations of discovering the bodies of murdered women and then brief explanations as to whether the murderer was found or not. That’s mostly what this section is, over and over again.

This is not the most gripping material. It’s moving at its own pace according to somewhat obscure logic, it’s frequently gruesome, and you need to have a lot of patience to let it develop on its own and speculate about where it is going. I don’t remember any section from TSD that’s like this.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. 2666 The Literary Saloon and others report that there’s now an Amazon pub date for Bolaño’s opus, in English. I’m a little divided as to whether...
  2. BEA–It’s Over The paperback edition of 2666. It’s even more beautiful in person. BEA was intense. It’s been a while since I have I been around...
  3. BEA For the five or so of you who a) want to meet me, and b) are headed to BEA this year, send me an email...
  4. 3x Bolaño in The Nation Roberto Bolaño gets triple coverge in The Nation, including, impressively, a review of one of his titles not yet available in English. Happy as I...
  5. Seattle–Book Trend-Setter The NYT wonders how three Seattle companies became gained the influence to create bestsellers. Books by relatively unknown or foreign authors become best sellers by...

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2 comments to 2666–The Big Book of BEA?

  • Wow, that section does sound . . . challenging.
    That said, I’m with Chad Post, at least to the extent that I know 2666 was the novel I had the most conversations about at BEA {Well, maybe aside from Mario Lopez’s new book about his abs.} The book itself was the main draw, but FSG’s marketing and design were also being justly rewarded for their innovation by becoming conversation topics–and buzz creators.
    That, and another conversation with friends at the show, finally led me to break down and pick up The Savage Detectives. I’m a couple years behind most people, but I think it’s finally Bolano time for me.

  • Levi,
    The design on those paperbacks was rather beautiful, wasn’t it?
    Extremely good to hear you’ve gotten a copy of TSD. I don’t think that’s the best place to start with Bolano–but who cares? I’m just happy you’re reading him!

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