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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 […]

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