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 Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Nabokov on Beckett's French

From a nice essay on Beckett in the Boston Review:

This thought coalesced into a conviction. Thereafter, Beckett, who so valued control over his work and the paring down of language to its essence, chose French as his primary writing medium because he was afraid his wild Irish English would run away with him, as it had with his mentor, Joyce. The ironic result was a great writer in two languages who was a true master of only one. The contrast was pointed out by Beckett’s fellow exile Vladimir Nabokov, American novelist and Russian aristocrat, who admired . . . continue reading, and add your comments

New Review: Kamby Bolongo Mean River by Robert Lopez

New review of a really intriguing new book at The Quarterly Conversation. Published by Dzanc Books, it’s called Kamby Bolongo Mean River and it sounds part-New York Trilogy, part-Beckett, and part Wittgenstein. Here’s a taste:

In Kamby Bolongo Mean River our protagonist is confined in an observation cell containing only a bed and a telephone. Behind the two-way glass, white coated doctors observe the incarcerated narrator as he chooses to answer or not answer incoming calls. The sudden ringing of the phone occasionally terrorizes the man whose frequent masturbation spells may or . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Something For Nothing

John Lahr has a nice piece in The New Yorker on the current Broadway performance of Waiting for Godot:

As Pozzo, the sadistic master who controls Lucky with a whip and a long rope, John Goodman is a huge, startling figure. He plays the tyrant with the ferocity and impetuousness of a big baby who wants an audience. “Is everybody looking at me?” Pozzo says, jerking the rope to raise Lucky’s head. “Will you look at me, pig!” In the first act, Goodman is all British tweeds and bombast; in the second act, he reappears, still . . . continue reading, and add your comments

How Closely Should Beckett’s Intentions Be Followed?

Via the Literary Saloon, interesting article in Prospect on how rigid rules of staging Beckett's plays are threatening to ossify them:

Calder’s efforts to make these plays available to audiences have an almost missionary zeal. Yet he is anything but democratic about their interpretation; he speaks with scorn of those who do “perverse things” with them. “If you try to set Endgame on the Moon [as one American company apparently did], or in some such different environment, the play just loses all its meaning.” There is room for manoeuvre, he insists, but his . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Call Me Jealous

We get Dwight Garner to write about Beckett's letters, and the British get . . . Gabriel Josipovici. That's not fair.

Luckily, we have the Internet to bridge the trans-Atlantic gap. The TLS:

And though many of these letters have been in the public domain for years (some of the letters to Tom McGreevy, for example, already quoted by Deirdre Bair in her Samuel Beckett of 1978), the effect of reading them all together is completely different from reading extracts embedded in . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Beckett’s Letters

Stephen posts a great excerpt:

To drill one hole after another into [language] until that which lurks behind, be it something or nothing, starts seeping through – I cannot imagine a higher goal for today's writer. Or is literature alone to be left behind on that old, foul road long ago abandoned by music and painting? Is there something paralysingly sacred contained within the unnature of the word that does not belong to the elements of the other arts? Is there any reason why that terrifyingly arbitrary materiality of the word surface should not be dissolved, as . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Beckett Performs Beckett

While reading Watt I came upon this YouTube of Samuel Beckett reading from Watt. The performance embodies a couple things I think Beckett is trying to do with the book, and, as such, I think it better conveys a sense of these things than I might have by spitting a few paragraphs of verbiage at you here. I’ll simply mention that what I got from this clip was the euphony of the nonsense language and the act of separating words from any meaning.

To speak of my reading of Watt, I got the sense throughout that the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Thought Upon Reading Beckett

I don’t know what he’s saying, but I like how he says it.

If you’d like to see what I mean, the book is Watt, the page is 58:

Thanks be to God, an opinion in which in tones that haunt me still my poor old mother would acquiesce, sighing, saying, Amen. Or is there a coming that is not a coming to, a going that is not a going from, a shadow that is not the shadow of purpose, or not? For what is this shadow of the going in which we come, this shadow of the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Beckett

More coverage for the big Beckett centenary edition from Grove Press.

Americans have for the most part read Samuel Beckett in a motley collection of very thin books. The average educated person typically owns the paperback of "Waiting for Godot" plus a select handful of the numerous other 50-to-60-page volumes, set in large type, that Grove Press issued over the years in a tireless effort to squeeze every penny from its star author, with his famous penchant for brevity. Those who have rationalized the cheese-slice books as apt vessels for Beckett's rigorous art of . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Beckett Centennial

The New York Sun has some info on Grove's forthcoming boxed set of virtually all of Beckett's works.

Grove Press, Beckett's original American publisher, has produced the most suitable tribute for so fastidious and ornery an author. The Grove Centenary Edition of his works, edited by Paul Auster in four handsome volumes ($24 each), contains almost all the extraordinary prose, poetry, and drama Beckett produced over half a century. Volume One (496 pages), with a superb introduction by Colm Toibin, offers the early novels ("Murphy" and "Watt"), written in English, followed by "Mercier and . . . continue reading, and add your comments