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 […]

Almost Never Reviews

Almost Never is getting some pretty good coverage. The New York Times gives a rare translation review to it.

What is so daring here? It’s not Sada’s depiction of the Madonna-whore complex, nor his take on the delusions of a Mexican macho — although both make for delicious burlesque. What’s new is the voice, and Sada’s glorious style. Katherine Silver pulls off the near-­impossible feat of translating the cacophony of thoughts, interjections and slang rattling around Demetrio’s fevered brain, not to mention the continual asides of an arch narrator. Here is Demetrio attempting to write his first letter to Renata . . .

And Steve Kellman offers a noncommittal-but-positive review in the Dallas Morning News.

Almost Never, which was published in Spanish in 2008, is the first Sada work to be rendered into English. Still awaiting translation are eight other novels, five volumes of short fiction, and three collections of poetry. However, Almost Never — translated from Casi Nunca by Katherine Silver — recalls the Spanish Baroque more than the Latin American avant-garde. As in the plays of Lope de Vega, an intricate code of honor shapes his novel’s plot, and, as much as Luis de Góngora, Sada revels in the labyrinths of preposterously convoluted prose.

Indeed, baroque it is, although the baroque has also often been avant-garde in Latin America. Terra Nostra, anyone?

Hermano Cerdo also has a good review, from a few years ago when the novel with new in Spanish.

El anterior fragmento es una buena muestra del estilo de la novela. Una prosa muy bien cuidada pero de fácil lectura, que apenas hace notar la extrañeza de su forma y va siempre acompañada de un dejo de ingenuidad. Mientras que en Porque parece mentira… -que todavía es la obra maestra de Sada- nos encontrábamos con una prosa desbordante, medida y rimada, en Casi Nunca nos presenta no un espectáculo verbal sino un ejercicio de contención, de control sobre el estilo. Nos encontramos ante un autor en madurez, que ha conseguido un total control sobre su manejo del idioma y por lo mismo no teme incluir en su novela cosas como ésta: “Demetrio, tenme paciencia. Así somos las mujeres de este pueblo. Recuerda que sería incapaz de cambiarte por nadie. Si te pierdo ya no podré querer a ningún hombre”.

Sada speaks interestingly about his style in this interview.

José Manuel Prieto The first time I heard about Porque parece mentira, la verdad nunca se sabe (Because it seems to be a lie, the truth is never known), I learned about its internal rhythm, its infamous octosyllabic meter. Can you explain that a bit for readers? What effect are you seeking there?

Daniel Sada It is in no way a desire to be flashy or overly elaborate that leads me to use octosyllables, hendecasyllables, alexandrines, decasyllables or heptasyllables. I have a deep knowledge, from childhood, of the most elemental constructions of these metric forms, so characteristic of Spanish. In my primary school in Sacramento, Coahuila, Panchita Cabrera, a rural schoolteacher who was an ardent fan of the Spanish Golden Age (a type that no longer exists) taught us these phonetic techniques with one goal in mind: that we might fine-tune our ears in order to appreciate the expressive delicacy and virulence of our language. In fact, to be honest, it’s more difficult for me to write free prose, because I don’t have any technical (phonetic) resources on hand that might provide some support. Now, in the most recent novels I’ve written, Luces artificiales (Artificial lights) and Ritmo delta (Delta rhythm), and in an as-yet-unpublished novella titled La duración de los empeños simples (The Duration of simple endeavors), I’ve let go of meter, and for that very reason I’ve had to work much harder to write them. I should also say that for many years I buried myself in the study of Spanish rhetoric, partly in order to destroy and then rebuild, in a different way, the internal logic of the Spanish language (to rid it of aridity and give it more expressive color). The result, over the years, is not definitive. The process of transfiguration continues to expand, and that’s one of the reasons I keep on writing. I have plans for literary projects that, according to my calculations, will take up the next 20 years of my life. This whole agenda depends more on my health than on the health of my ideas.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. HermanoCerdo 23 I see they've just published the new issue of HermanoCerdo. Among the goodies for Spanish-readers this time around, you'll find: A review of Daniel Sada's...
  2. New Daniel Sada Book Mexican author Daniel Sada seems like one of those writers begging to be translated. His language is baroque and interesting, and he seems to be...
  3. Someone Translate Daniel Sada After reading this review in Letras y Libres, I’m amazed that none of Daniel Sada’s novels are available in English. (Although, to Dalkey’s credit, a...
  4. Daniel Sada Interview Moleskine Literario points me to an interview with Daniel Sada, the Mexican novelist whose book Casi nunca previously caught my attention. Now I'm doubly interested...
  5. May Letras y Libres For the Spanish-reading among us, some interesting articles in the May issue of the Mexican magazine Letras y Libres. First off, just in time for...

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