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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    I'm surprised to learn Andres Newman is so young. Also, great overview of his books in English. Andrés Neuman is... »
  • The Future ModianoThe Future Modiano

    The Complete Review has the details of the future Englishing of our most recent Nobel laureate. And also, sales figures. For... »
  • Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38

    Issue 38 right here. or TOC after the jump. Features Readings, Fragments,... »
  • On KafkaOn Kafka

    Rivka Galchen on the new Kafka bio by Reiner Stach. I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for... »
  • Me on ModianoMe on Modiano

    My review of Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano. The most focused of the book’s three diffuse novellas is... »
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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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

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

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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,...
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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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