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

You Say

  • Neil G: Think of how less juvenile Marilynne Robinson's writing woul
  • Padraic: Funny, I had no idea Phillip Roth grew up in the Midwest...
  • Ryan Ries: Yeah, what exactly does the Midwestern thing mean? It appea
  • Bernie: Whoa now, mind your Midwestern readers there...
  • Gs: There seems to me an important facet of fiction revealed in
  • David Long: This is a list I posted a few days ago: 25 REASONS TO THA
  • Padraic: I think Saramango gives Coetzee a pretty good run for most a

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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

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.

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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. . . .

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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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