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.


  • 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 […]

Aharon Appelfeld and Kafka

Dan Green has an interesting post on the Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld. The post touches on a number of points related to his novel All Whom I Have Loved, but I wanted to quote Dan's take on Appelfeld vis a vis Kafka:

Appelfeld is often enough compared to Kafka, but this comparison in turn generally assumes that Kafka's fiction is allegorical in a more or less overt way. But of course Kafka created narratives that appear to incorporate an allegorical level of meaning only to complicate and ultimately to deny that meaning. Kafka's world purports to be comprehensible, its ultimate sense to be discovered just around the next narrative turn, but it is finally a world of no-sense, or, more accurately, only of the aesthetic sense made through its own impeccable construction. Kafka is at pains to give his inscrutable world as much substance and texture as is necessary to make it. . .real. The point of reading Kafka's fiction is not, it seems to me, to arrive at a conclusion that the world we live in is absurd, or frightening, or grotesque, but that the world Kafka has created is self-sustaining and entirely logical.

If Kafka is a touchstone in understanding the work of Aharon Applefeld, then something like this focus on texture, on the imaginatively concrete, must be true of Appelfeld's fiction as well. Like Kafka, Appelfeld in all of his novels is concerned above all to sustain the integrity of his invoked world, to make the reader's experience of that world as palpable as the more customary world assumed in most novels. Indeed, if part of Appelfeld's ambition as a fiction writer is to recapture the lost world of prewar European Jewry, then insuring that the particulars remain in the foreground of the reader's attention seems all the more necessary, even if those particulars must unavoidably be filtered through fallible and subjective retrospection.

Appelfeld also has a novel recently published by Godine, Badenheim 1939.

I also noted that Dan's critical website, Critical Distance, has a new piece on Nicholas Baker. I'm a little too swamped to read it right now, but needless to say I'll get to it sooner or later.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Kirsch on Kafka On the heels of the new translation of Kafka’s novel Amerika, the NTYBR publishes a short essay on it by Adam Kirsch. Kirsch spends some...
  2. The Quotable Kafka My edition of Kafka’s complete short stories tells me that the short story "The Great Wall of China" "though apparently a fragment, is so perfect...
  3. Updating Kafka In The Guardian, Cockroach sounds impressive: De Niro's Game, the riveting Impac-winning debut novel by the Lebanese-born writer Rawi Hage, ended with its young hero,...
  4. This Is Not How I Pictured Kafka’s Infernal Machine The disco ball really screws it up. ...
  5. Kafka This is a beautiful reading: In the event, when they became engaged, Kafka would have to face the prospect of conjugality, and in Stach’s persuasive...

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2 comments to Aharon Appelfeld and Kafka

  • Scott, you’re also a little too swamped to get Nicholson Baker’s name right!
    And Badenheim 1939 has been out in translation for 29 years!
    Godine’s beautiful edition of Appelfeld’s “The Age of Wonders” is the one to go for. And then “The Healer”.

  • Steve,
    I’m aware of the previous Godine editions. They’re out of print and hard to find, which is why I mentioned that Badenheim was recently published.

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