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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 Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

36 Outstanding Novellas

A list of some of my favorite novellas:

Death in Venice — Thomas Mann
The Turn of the Screw — Henry James
The Metamorphosis — Kafka
Heart of Darkness — Joseph Conrad
The Invention of Morel — Adolfo Bioy Casares
The Crying of Lot 49 — Thomas Pynchon
The Dead — James Joyce
The Death of Ivan Ilyich — Leo Tolstoy
Things — Georges Perec
The Watcher — Italo Calvino
The Marquise of O — Heinrich von Kleist
Billy Budd, Sailor — Herman Melville
An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter — Cesar Aira
Train Dreams — Denis Johnson
Bonsai — Alejando Zambra
The Walk — Robert Walser
Chess Story — Stefan Zweig
The Lifted Veil — George Eliot
The Girl with the Golden Eyes — Honore de Balzac
The Lime Twig — John Hawkes

And I tossed the question out to Twitter:

@dgooblar
Seize the Day — Saul Bellow
The Ghost Writer — Philip Roth

@darrananderson1
Heart of a Dog — Mikhail Bulgakov
A Country Doctor’s Notebook — Mikhail Bulgakov

@AhabLives
Melanctha — Gertrude Stein
Pale Horse, Pale Rider — Katherine Anne Porter
First Love — Samuel Beckett

@cbhathco
The Old Forest — Peter Taylor
The Beggar Maid — Alice Munro

@biblioklept
Benito Cereno — Herman Melville
Hadji Murad — Leo Tolstoy
Chronicle of a Death Foretold — Gabriel García Márquez
The Bear — William Faulkner

@jhm001
@wpwend42
The Aspen Papers — Henry James

@kudera
Benito Cereno — Herman Melville

@svanneil
Notes from Underground — Fyodor Dostoevsky

@IneluctableQuak
Battles in The Desert — Jose Emilio Pacheco

Plus 2 more

@jsief
The Pilgrim Hawk — Glenway Wescott
The Letter Left to Me — Joseph McElroy

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. From the Central Lavatory Review of Beckett’s Collected Poems: When Samuel Beckett was asked to write the libretto for a short opera in 1958, he managed to complete just...
  2. I Guess Paper Was in Short Supply? JC Hallman is blogging the highlights of the correspondence between William and Henry James in conjunction with a book he's writing about . . ....
  3. Frank on Oblomov Joseph Frank, who, unless this is some kind of rare-but-possible mix-up, is the biographer of Dostoevsky has written on the recent translation of the Russian...
  4. 4 Novellas, 4 Formats? This seems like an interesting project. Author Mike Heppner is publishing a series of four (thematically) linked novellas. Number 4 is available to you, reader,...
  5. Two New Novellas from Gabriel Josipovici The author of Goldberg: Variations (see our review if you’re not familiar) has just published two new novellas (via This Space). And here’s the...

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13 comments to 36 Outstanding Novellas

  • Birne

    Michael Kohlhaas, Heinrich von Kleist
    The Golden Pot, E.T.A. Hoffmann
    The Rider on the White Horse, Theodor Storm
    Lieutenant Gustl, Arthur Schnitzler
    Mario and the Magician, Thomas Mann
    Cat and Mouse, Gunter Grass

    A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
    Billy Budd, Herman Melville
    Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, R.L. Stevenson
    Animal Farm, George Orwell

    By Night in Chile, Roberto Bolano

  • DCN

    In addition to many already named:

    “The Shawl” and “The Messiah of Stockholm” by Cynthia Ozick
    “Death in Spring” by Merce Rodoreda
    “The Journey of Ibn Fattouma” by Naguib Mahfouz
    “The Vet’s Daughter” by Barbara Comyns
    “Hour of the Star” by Clarice Lispector

  • p.t.smith

    Dammit. Considering that I went to the bookstore last night specifically to buy novellas, I saw this a day late.

  • Chuck

    “The Duel” by Anton Chekhov should be added to the list. I’d also include “Rita Heyworth and The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body” by Stephen King. While neither might be included in a list of classic literature, both showcase King at his finest, and served as source material for two excellent films (The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me.) “Bartleby The Scrivener” by Herman Melville should also be mentioned.

  • Bartleby the Scrivener will always be my number one. More recently: Customer Service by Benoit Duteurtre, Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos, and The Hall of the Singing Caryatids by Victor Pelevin. Top notch!

  • PStoakes

    Rock Crystal: Adelbert Stifter
    The Driver’s Seat: Muriel Spark
    A Beleaguered City : Margaret Oliphant

  • Eric

    Pelevin’s Omon Ra and Cesar Aira’s The Literary Conference are also excellent.

  • [...] Novellas (novellae?) to read. [via Conversational Reading] [...]

  • m. klausman

    mikhail zoschenko – before sunrise
    haniel long – interlinear to cabeza de vaca
    john fuller – flying to nowhere
    ivan olbracht – the sorrowful tears of hannah karajich
    julien gracq – king cophetua
    claudio magris – inferences from a saber
    pierre michon – the origin of the world
    jaimy gordon – circumspections from an equestrian statue
    yury tynanov – lieutenant kije/young vitushishnikov
    gerhard roth – the will to sickness
    arno schmidt – school for atheists
    jose donoso – hell has no limits
    alejo carpentier – the kingdom of this world
    jaime de angulo – the lariat
    james schuyler – alfred & guinevere
    nikolai leskov – musk ox
    tom pickard – guttersnipe
    ermilo abreu gomez – canek
    frigyes karinthy – voyage to faremido/capillaria

  • Michael Travis

    The Late Bourgeois World by Nadine Gordimer
    Party Going and Loving by Henry Green

  • david kelly-hedrick

    Legends of the Fall, The Woman Lit by Fireflies, Brown Dog, and Revenge by Jim Harrison

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