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 […]

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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