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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 […]

You All Read the Incomplete Edition of 2666

The Literary Saloon informs me that they've discovered two new Bolano manuscripts–and a sixth section to the already massive 2666:

Two new novels by the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño have reportedly been found in Spain among papers he left behind after his death. The previously unseen manuscripts were entitled Diorama and The Troubles of the Real Police Officer, reported La Vanguardia.

The newspaper said the documents also included what is believed to be a sixth section of Bolaño's epic five-part novel 2666.

So, everyone . . . continue reading, and add your comments

CR Readers’ Picks

Based on Amazon purchases made through links on this website, the following are the "picks" of Conversational Reading’s readers for 2008:

#1

By a large margin, The Invention of Morel was the most popular purchase among readers of this blog. Obviously, my sincere praise of this book helped move it along, but I’m convinced that not nearly as many copies would have been purchased if this wasn’t a great book, and if Borges wasn’t Bioy’s literary collaborator. A great read, and if you haven’t had a chance to yet, definitely pick it up.

#2

Not really a surprise, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Goldman and Wimmer Discuss Bolano

(On December 4, 2008, Natasha Wimmer and Francisco Goldman discussed Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 at Idlewild Books in Manhattan. Quarterly Conversation contributing editor Scott Bryan Wilson and Chris Dikenwere there. Words Without Borders also has a write-up of the talk.)

It’s a testament to the rapidly ballooning legacy of Roberto Bolaño that more than a hundred people turned out to hear Francisco Goldman, a Trinity University English professor who has written extensively about Bolaño, and Natasha Wimmer, the translator of The Savage Detectives and 2666*, discuss the writer’s sad, happy life and . . . continue reading, and add your comments

2666 Review at Open Letters

Sam Sacks has one of the better reviews of 2666 that I’ve read. This is a nice observation:

An indescribable amount of things happen to an innumerable cast of characters in 2666—its nearly 900 pages are almost never static. But it must be reemphasized that, with one significant exception that I’ll look into later, every character, every occurrence, and every development of this book is brought into existence for the purpose of being negated. Nothingness is the single connecting motif of the five disparate sections, and it doesn’t bind them so much as drape across them like . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Natasha Wimmer’s Notes on 2666

Although it’s somewhat buried, Macmillan has a page of useful annotations to 2666 made by its English-language translator, Natasha Wimmer. For instance:

p.45:  “And speaking of the Greeks, it would be fair to say that Espinoza and Pelletier believed themselves to be (and in their perverse way, were) incarnations of Ulysses”:    In an essay on Bolaño titled “La batalla futura,” the Mexican novelist and critic Juan Villoro (see note to p. 257) suggests that the characters of 2666 can be seen as “individuals removed from the vacillations of the inner life who, like Greek . . . continue reading, and add your comments

2666 Review at Seminary Co-Op

Quarterly Conversation contributor Levi Stahl has published a review of 2666, and it’s a pretty good one.

2666 is another iteration of Bolaño’s increasingly baroque, cryptic, and mystical personal vision of the world, revealed obliquely by his recurrent symbols, images, and tropes. There is something secret, horrible, and cosmic afoot, centered around Santa Teresa (and possibly culminating in the mystical year of the book’s title, a date that is referred to in passing in The Savage Detectives as well). We can at most glimpse it, in those uncanny moments when the world seems wrong—”The University of Santa . . . continue reading, and add your comments

More 2666 Reviews

Couple more review for 2666. First, there’s Jonathan Lethem’s review in the NYTBR (reprinted in the International Herald tribune). This pretty much sums it up:

Well, hold on to your hats.

After Kirsch’s love letter, I’m beginning to get a little disappointed in the coverage, as these reviews seem altogether too credulous. There are plenty of sky-high, arcing statements about redefining the form of the long novel, etc., etc., but I’m seeing little critical engagement beyond a few generalized insights that sound quite similar from review to review. Perhaps these reviewers believe that they can back up . . . continue reading, and add your comments

First 2666 Review

Adam Kirsch in Slate has the first review I’ve seen for 2666. I imagine this kind of opening will become pretty standard fare in the 2666 coverage:

By this standard, there is no doubt that Roberto Bolaño is a great writer. 2666, the enormous novel he had almost completed when he died at 50 in 2003, has the confident strangeness of a masterpiece: In almost every particular, it fails, or refuses, to conform to our expectations of what a novel should be. For one thing, though it is being published as a single work (in a Bible-sized . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Murders in Ciudad Juarez–Art and Video

If you know one thing about 2666, it’s probably that the plot circles around the murders of hundreds of women that have occurred in Ciudad Juarez on the U.S./Mexico border. Bolano’s novel isn’t the only recent art to consider the meaning of these grotesque events and the (post-)urban environment that seems to be a part of their cause.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s another new novel exploring this issue. There’s also a new art exhibit in New York City considering it.

Most visitors stumble upon the unmarked gallery, where a small framed note on the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Bolano and Imperfection

After breezing through the first hundred pages of 2666, I had the feeling that I’d finish the book in a week. I read By Night in Chile in a single sitting, Amulet in two, and Distant Star in perhaps three at most, so by extrapolating out, a week seemed perfectly reasonable.

2666 turned out to be a much slower read than I anticipated.

I think, probably, if it was like a 1,000-page version of By Night in Chile, I would have read the book in a week; but I’m not even sure what I just . . . continue reading, and add your comments