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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com
  • Two PansTwo Pans

    Another high-profile pan for David Mitchell's newest. I think Mitchell is pretty seriously overrated, but most people in the... »
  • ThoughtcrimeThoughtcrime

    There are a lot of really obvious takes on this that you are probably already thinking of. To me, the interesting/scary thing... »
  • Wood on MitchellWood on Mitchell

    For the record, James Wood's take on Mitchell is pretty much my own. Dude can write for days, but I rarely feel that there is... »
  • M&L on Ann QuinM&L on Ann Quin

    Music & Literature unearths a sroty of Ann Quin and publishes it. If the name is new to you, have a look here.... »
  • The Potato EatersThe Potato Eaters

    Nice interview with Bela Tarr's cinematographer, Fred Kelemen, discussing the film The Turin Horse (which I recently watched,... »
  • 35 Worthy Independent Books35 Worthy Independent Books

    All publishing this fall. Pretty nice list. Good on Publishers Weekly.... »
  • The new DostoevskyThe new Dostoevsky

    Been a while since I read Crime and Punishment. Sounds interesting. Several earlier translations tended to smooth over... »
  • Golden HandcuffsGolden Handcuffs

    The current issue of the Golden Handcuffs Review has my essay "The Eclipse; Or, The Vulva," which is part of a series of work... »
  • The Translation Is HotThe Translation Is Hot

    While I tend to lump blockbusters into an outlier category regardless of what language they were originally written in, I do... »
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    Nice that there are still places like the LRB that publish things like this: By the time he was elected to the Académie... »

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.


  • 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 […]

BEA Books Part II

Last week I told you about the first half of books I brought home from BEA. Now we do the second.

cover

I absolutely must start off with Nine by Polish author Andrzej Stasiuk. This book actually isn’t a new book–it was published last year in English by Harcourt. The way I got my copy was that the Polish government had sent an emissary to BEA to try and create interest in publishing more Polish titles in English. She had a booth that, to be painfully honest, was not lighting BEA on fire, but she had to be the most refreshing person I spoke to the entire time I was at BEA. That is to say, BEA was not nearly as bad as I had feared in terms of commercializing culture, but it was sufficiently so that talking to this woman was a breath of fresh air. Not that she didn’t have an agenda, or wasn’t canny about carrying it out; just that, she was distinct from everyone else. In a good way.

Anyway, Nine. The Polish booth actually didn’t have any samples to hand out (although they had a very nice catalog of the 35 Polish titles the government most wanted translated into English). The way I got my copy of Nine was that, somehow, the copy the Polish government had meant to display in their booth was disfigured during the trip to the U.S. (No word on how this happened.) The book is completely warped, which is hard to do to a hardcover, although it’s not water-damaged. The spine is torn a bit and the cover is not what you would hope for. But, the book is completely readable.

According to the woman at the Polish booth, Andrzej Stasiuk, Nine’s author, is the most important Polish author at work today. The book is about the post-communist generation in Poland, and it deals with the youth, drugs, and, apparently, multiple hallucinatory trips around Warsaw. Stasiuk is famous as a textual innovator who frequently uses stream-of-consciousness. I’m interested.

cover

While at Coffee House Press’s booth I picked up a copy of the only non-poetry title in their Fall list, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (David Mura, September). Mura is best-known as a poet, and this is his first novel, although he has previously written prose about the Japanese experience. The story deals with a Japanese-American coming of age in Chicago. For more about the author, see this interview with him.

Although New Directions wasn’t handing out copies, they were very excited about publishing the first volume of Roberto Bolano’s poetry in English (November, trans. Laura Healy). They are also publishing another book from the prolific Cesar Aira, albeit in February 2009.

Unfortunates

While at ND’s booth, I managed to get my hands on a copy of B.S. Johnson’s novel in pieces, The Unfortuantes (available, see my previous blog post). This is a great-looking book, and it’s impressive that ND has done such a nice job with it given that no publisher would publish this book the way Johnson originally wanted. I was told that they did a pretty small run, but nonetheless I’m amazed they did one at all.

NYRB Classics is publishing a very interesting, largish book titled Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States (July, George R. Stewart). The book delivers pretty much what the title promises–explanations behind place-names throughout the United States. I’m quite eager to check this one out, although I’m somewhat chastened by the fact that Stewart is also the author of the famous (or infamous) post-apocalyptic sci-fi "classic," Earth Abides.

NYRB was also promoting Stefan Zweig’s final novel, The Post-Office Girl, as part of the Reading the World program (available, trans. Joel Rotenberg). For a good take on this book, see William Deresiewicz in The Nation:

But nowhere else in his fiction does Zweig confront the legacy of the
Great War with as deep a social reach or as detailed a human sympathy as
he does in The Post-Office Girl. Zweig completed only one novel,
Beware of Pity; The Post-Office Girl was found among his
literary remains and published in Germany (as Rausch der
Verwandlung
, "The Intoxication of Transformation") only in 1982. Its
appearance in English caps a recent spate of republication. Since 2002,
Pushkin Press has issued six volumes of fiction, while New York Review
Books has published three, all nine of them in attractive editions and
many in new, competent translations. Other presses have contributed
fresh versions of The World of Yesterday, Marie Antoinette,
Zweig’s most popular biography, and another volume of short stories. We
have three recent translations of "Chess Story" and two editions of
Beware of Pity from which to choose, as well as new versions of
some fourteen other tales.

Still, posthumous publication is a dicey business. There’s been more and
more of it lately, for obvious reasons. Venerated authors represent
established "brands" guaranteed to move product, one of the few sure
bets in an increasingly anxious business. Artistic integrity and the
writer’s wishes don’t enter into it. Ernest Hemingway and Elizabeth
Bishop, celebrated perfectionists both, are only two of the authors
lately subjected to the publication of material they had chosen to
suppress. New York Review Books, established in 1999 to revive neglected
classics, is presumably acting on nobler motives here, but there is
reason to question its judgment nevertheless. Zweig nibbled at The
Post-Office Girl
for years. The NYRB press material claims that the
novel was found completed after its author’s death, "awaiting only minor
revisions," but the afterword to the German edition describes a
manuscript in considerable disarray. Given that Zweig chose his own time
of death, and given that he had just finalized two other works and
dispatched them to his publishers, it seems clear that he never managed
to hammer the novel into a shape that satisfied him. NYRB, which seems
to have gotten a little carried away here with its project of
reclamation, should at least have provided the volume with an
introduction (as it did in the case of its other Zweig reissues) airing
these questions fully and candidly.

Nevertheless, we are lucky to have the book, not only for its
devastating picture of postwar Austrian life but also because it
represents so radical a departure from Zweig’s other fiction as to
signal the existence of a hitherto unsuspected literary personality. . . .

cover

At the University of Minnesota Press booth I found an interesting cultural/theoretic book. Despite the unassuming title, French Theory (available, Francois Cusset, trans. Jeff Fort)  attempts no lesser goal than to explain how French theory infiltrated and dominated the intellectual and cultural fabric of U.S. thought. As Scott McLemee puts it in his Bookforum review:

The guiding question in Cusset’s book is, How did it come to pass that
a group of French intellectuals who were seldom closely affiliated,
pursued radically incompatible lines of thought, and were often quite
passé at home turned by the mid-1980s into hotly coveted exports for
the American intellectual market? Indeed, these thinkers were
transformed into something like the various models of a single
brand—repackaged, cross-promoted, and vended with the steep discounts
made possible through economies of scale.

Continuum showed me an early copy of America’s Film Legacy (October, Daniel Eagan). Basically, this book takes on each of the 450 most important American films, as chosen by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. This is a pretty diverse list–everything from Koyaanisqatsi to Boyz N the Hood to The Life and Death of 9413: a Hollywood Extra.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. BEA For the five or so of you who a) want to meet me, and b) are headed to BEA this year, send me an email...
  2. More BEA Photos The New York Review booth Unbridled publisher Fred Ramey As you can see, I was not joking about the 20 ft. posters ...
  3. Friday Column: BEA Book Roundup, Part 1 Here’s the first batch of books I personally picked up at BEA and am excited about reading. (See part II of the BEA book roundup...
  4. BEA Today’s the big day. I’ve got my Mac in tow, although I’m not sure of the wi-fi situation (or the spare time situation), so I...
  5. 2666–The Big Book of BEA? Chad Post is declaring 2666 the "big book" of BEA Jeff’s comments about how they marketed The Savage Detectives and what they’re doing for 2666...

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