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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 […]

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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