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.

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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.

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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

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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 […]

96 Percent Stupid

Dalkey is getting some great coverage for their Gaddis re-releases. The New Yorker picks out a gem anecdote:

William Gaddis, in the closing pages of his colossal 1955 novel “The Recognitions,” inserts a brief scene that manages to be at once rancorously funny, brazenly self-referential, and spookily prescient about the critical fate that lay in store for his work. A book reviewer and a poet meet in a tailor’s shop; both are sitting pantsless while they wait for their respective garments to be adjusted. The poet notices an unusually thick book under the critic’s arm and asks him if he’s reading it. No, says the critic, he’s not reading it, “just reviewing it.” He complains that he’s getting paid “a lousy twenty-five bucks for the job” and that “it’ll take me the whole evening tonight.” He then tells his acquaintance that he hopes he hasn’t gone and bought the book. “Christ,” he says, “I could have given it to you, all I need is the jacket blurb to write the review.”

Though the name of the book is never mentioned, it’s fairly obviously “The Recognitions.” It’s as though Gaddis was already convinced, before he even completed his nine hundred and fifty-six-page début, that the novel was going to be treated with contempt or indifference by the literary press, and had decided to work in this gag as a sort of futile, preëmptive revenge on the critics who would never get far enough into the text to notice. His apparent pessimism was borne out: the book was reviewed quite widely, but the overwhelming majority of reviews were either dismissive of its blatant ambition or frustrated by its length and frequent impenetrability. As the novelist William H. Gass put it in his introduction to the 1993 edition of the book, “Its arrival was duly newsed in fifty-five papers and periodicals. Only fifty-three of these notices were stupid.”

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Continue the Conversation Over at The Quarterly Conversation’s Facebook page, we’re discussing the new issue. Here’s part of John Lingan’s remarks on his essay on William Gaddis: "The...
  2. The Recognitions Michael over at Culturespace is embarking on a summer reading of The Recognitions. Good luck to him. It’s a splendid novel, but it’s ground down...
  3. The Anxiety of Influence William Gaddis edition: I recall a most ingenious piece in a Wisconsin quarterly some years ago in which The Recognitions’ debt to Ulysses was established...
  4. Stupid Praise Mark Lotto, i.e. the voice of sanity. Book reviewers, on the other hand, have had no trouble making up their minds about Indecision. The Gray...
  5. Some of it is just plain stupid I’d say that the Richard Posner article on media in The New York Times is about 50/50. Fifty percent of it says intelligent things that...

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1 comment to 96 Percent Stupid

  • David Heintz

    I returned the new Dalkey edition as the type size was too small and the printing was not high quality.

    However, they have just released the book for Kindle (I have an iPad) and it is perfect…

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