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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.

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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

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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 […]

Books to Watch for in 2010

Tuesday’s post on books to expect in 2010 inspired some pushback in the comments, and, actually, there are a lot of great recs there. So let’s crowdsource this. What should we be reading next year?

Here are the ones named in the comments:

And I found:

And still more:

And the Big Names

And the Lit Crit

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Books Upcoming in 2010 D. G. Myers is dour about the literary prospects for 2010, and he’s got a lengthy list of expected novels plus pithy summaries to prove...
  2. Thomas Bernhard Makes An Acceptance Speech You can probably guess some of what happens in Meine Preise, Thomas Bernhard's "accounts of receiving nine of the literary prizes and honours he was...
  3. Novels to watch Out for 2007 The Guardian has an article on novels to watch out for in 2007. Lots of good stuff here, including the new novel by LBC-nominee...
  4. Death Watch B.R. Meyers’s review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the Atlantic Monthly is called "A Bag of Tired Tricks." The text of it is...
  5. Praise for Anchor Book of Short Stories Well, we know that Charles McGrath did not like the Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, but it appears that Salon.com’s Priya Jain does....

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23 comments to Books to Watch for in 2010

  • Jonathan Post

    It should be noted that ‘The Return’ is Putas Asesinas and thus will only be partly new for readers of Last Evenings on Earth.

  • Scott Bryan Wilson

    Scott–you actually didn’t get the full Vollmann title (I guess Amazon has a character limit). Here it is:
    Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater, with Some Thoughts on Muses (Especially Helga Testorf), Transgender Women, Kabuki Goddesses, Porn Queens, Poets, Housewives, Makeup Artists, Geishas, Valkyries and Venus Figurines

  • DN

    Perhaps this would be a good time and place to ask this question: There are lots of works by Vollmann available and lots of them are very long. I am interested in getting into him, but have no idea where to begin. In fact, I have several of his books that I’ve picked up over the years, but have yet to read. Essentially, one day I realized I had lots of Vollman books. I’ve read parts of lots of them, and some of his short stories, parts of Atlas. I want to fall in love, though I haven’t yet (petty gripe: the funny fonts, but I’ll live). So, yes, my question is: where to begin. I’ve got Europe Central, Fathers and Crows, Argall, The Royal Family, the Abridged Rising Up, Rising Down, Atlas, Rainbow Stories and probably one more that I am forgetting. Do I begin with one of these, or is Imperial better, or perhaps this new book about Noh theater (it sounds interesting). I know I should just suck it up and dig in, but with such a project, and with such a collection, I really want to try an get started on the right foot.

  • You’re right. And thus I must ask, Why didn’t they stick with a literal translation of the title? It’s much better.

  • Tom

    Hey DN — I’ve read pretty much everything Vollmann has written. While some of his work is more accessible than others, all of it is challenging and strenuous in some way. The best place to start: The Rainbow Stories. This collection showcases nearly all of Vollmann’s signature styles and themes, and contains plenty of gorgeous writing. The narratives are also well-developed and intense. After Rainbow, I’d say check out the shorter novels: Whores for Gloria and The Butterfly Stories. The Atlas next, and if you’re still intrigued, work up to one of the big ones: The Royal Family is especially great. I would save Imperial and the Seven Dreams novels until you’re well inured to Vollmann’s style. Have fun…he is, in my opinion, the most important American writer of the moment.

  • DN

    Thanks. I have read the Rainbow Stories, or most of them. Let me rephrase though (as I have no problem or fear of long, dense writing [in fact, that's why I am interested in Vollman--it seems like it would be up my ally, but I don't know where to get in]): Which is his greatest work. I want to read him at the top of his form and go from there. So what are your favorites?

  • DN:
    I think this question will receive as many answers as there are Vollmann fans. For my own part, I think Europe Central exemplifies the best treatment of Vollmann’s core themes and concerns, but in a way that feels less indulgent than some of his other books (a concern with Vollmann).
    Of the Seven Dreams (or, rather, the four extant), I believe Argall is the most challenging/rewarding and The Ice Shirt & the Rifles the gateway ones.

  • DN

    Thanks–this is a great help.

  • Scott Bryan Wilson

    I’ve read pretty much all of Vollmann too and if you want his *greatest* book, there’s not only one. Like Scott said, as many answers as there are books. My favorite is probably The Royal Family, but I’m also very fond of Argall. For his nonfiction, I gave Imperial a pretty glowing review in the Quarterly Conversation a few months back.

  • Ellisonfan

    Ralph Ellison’s Three Days Before The Shooting…

  • Jonathan Post

    Royal Family is probably my favorite fiction piece of his and it incorporates a lot of his research/writing on whores and underbelly previously written about in (the best parts of) Rainbow Stories (and various other early novels and stories I haven’t read). I feel like it best represents his fiction.
    Europe Central was spotty to me and ended up droning.

  • DN

    Thanks for all of the suggestions. What I am hearing is they are all really good, with some difference of opinion based on personal taste. The problem for me is that they all seem interesting to me, but that is generally the problem that I have in general with deciding what to read next. I want to read everything at once–and I find that that isn’t possible.
    Also, thanks to Ellisonfan for reminding me about “Three Days…” I love Invisible Man, but never read Juneteenth because I was suspicious of it. I am really looking forward to this book–I don’t think Ellison gets near as much attention as he should.

  • Invisible Man is one of the greatest novels this nation has produced, but how is Three Days more complete than Juneteenth?

  • Matt

    I contacted Open Letter about the release date for Zone and they said it will be Sept. ’10.

  • DN

    I am certainly not an expert, but it is my understanding that at his death, the manuscript that Ellison left behind was around 2000 pages. Juneteenth was the best excerpt his literary executor could put together (after several years of work), but have continued to work on organizing what was left since. The new edition/book is 1100 pages.

  • Atxaga y su provincialismo pueden resultar interesantes para fans tardíos de cierto realismo mágico….No para mí, desde luego. El Museo de la Novela Eterna es la gran novela de Macedonio Fernándz, más diré, es la novela macedoniana. Dicen que su mejor obra fue oral, no obstante, pero ese trabajo es inmenso, muy admirado por Gómez de la Serna con quien Fernández mantuvo una admirada correspondencia.

  • Sonallah Ibrahim’s Stealth (Al-Talossos), out from Aflame Books in Feb. 2010. Not to be missed.

  • Ah, queridos, he leído Un encuentro y es genial. Es un libro de ensayos pequeñito, pero Kundera lo dice al principio, de pequeños placeres. Revisita a Goytisolo, Rabelais, Beethoven. Un pequeño gran libro de un gran escritor y pensador.
    Oh, dear readers, I’ve read Encounter and it’s great. It’s a little book of essays, but, Kundera remarks at the beginning, of little pleasures. It revisits Goytisolo, Rabelais, Beethoven. A little great book from a great writer and thinker.

  • Matt

    Is there a concrete release date for David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King yet?

  • I’m curious about the english edition of The Return: what’s the source? Putas asesinas, Llamadas telefónicas, etc. I think translating short stories may be a good way for getting into Bolaño’s work. I also recommend to all readers go through the spanish version. I read some parts of Wimmer’s Savage Detectives, and even the work is solid, it’s ‘far’ from the original in a sense that you feel that the writer has created lots of different voices and it’s impressive. This is hard to find in the translation. Maybe Fresán is a better option because he writes influenced by north-american writers and has just one and recognizable voice.

  • If you want something that is not like anything out there–the same sense of moral confrontation not seen in American fiction since Moby Dick, try Lightbearer (a recreation of the Lucifer myth that takes the Biblical story and Milton to task) by yours truly. A book too controversial for a big publisher to take a chance on, but grabbed by Bold Strokes Books and just published, December 2009.

  • I assume that ‘The Return’ consists of stories in ‘Llamadas telefónicas’ and ‘Putas asesinas’ that were not collected in ‘Last Evenings on Earth’.

  • Matt

    I suppose you can add Franzen to the list. Anyone know if there is any truth to the rumors about new Cormac McCarthy and Norman Rush?

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