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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    The Complete Review has the details of the future Englishing of our most recent Nobel laureate. And also, sales figures. For... »
  • Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38

    Issue 38 right here. or TOC after the jump. Features Readings, Fragments,... »
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    Rivka Galchen on the new Kafka bio by Reiner Stach. I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for... »
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    My review of Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano. The most focused of the book’s three diffuse novellas is... »
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    At the NY TImes. I'm currently reading Book 1. Q. You insist on anonymity and yet are developing a cult following,... »
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You Say

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

Shop though these links = Support this site


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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
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  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

Buddenbrooks: My Final Thoughts

Just to get a little closure on this huge book, I wanted to take a minute and talk about how the whole thing struck me. Scott, I hope to hear your thoughts on the matter, as well.

First of all, the "Cultural Context" post was helpful, even if I read it after finishing Mann's novel. Mainly it illuminated what Mann was doing with the social aspect of his book, an aspect that I felt slightly let down by once I got into it. By opening Buddenbrooks with the lavish dinner scene, introducing all the leitmotifs with color . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks: A Little Cultural Context

Now that we've gotten acquainted with Buddenbrooks' major characters and their arcs, I thought it would be good to pull back a little bit and look at some of the social and historical forces that Buddenbrooks is playing out against.

The Buddenbrooks themselves are something of a bridge between two major components of society that co-existed in Austria-Hungary and the Germanic lands during the 19th century. On the one hand was the landed aristocracy, conservative and still ridiculously rich but in decline as the cities gained prominence; on the other hand was the business class, liberal and on . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks’ Contribution to the Ebook Debate

I've been reading and enjoying Ted Striphas's The Late Age of Print, and I intend to write more about it soon. For now, though, I'd like to pull this Heidegger quote that Striphas mentions while discussing language's progression from the mouth to the pen to the typewriter to the computer to the ________.

Mechanical writing deprives the hand of its rank in the realm of the written word and degrades the word to a means of communication. In addition, mechanical writing provides this "advantage," that is conceals the handwriting and thereby the character. The typewriter makes everyone look the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

On Mann and Music

This is a rich, rich subject that we should return to again, but I just wanted to respond briefly to John's remarks re: Hanno, Thomas Mann, and classical music. John writes:

Similarly, after reading Mann's beautiful rendering of Hanno's musical experiences in Part 8, I'm interested to learn more about the role of music in the writer's life. Scott, having enjoyed Doctor Faustus so much, perhaps you've read about Mann's musical background. Was he a musician himself, or was his understanding more scholarly? He seems to grasp the unspeakable aspects of musical communication with enough depth that I . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Faulkner and Music

One of the most intriguing things I've learned while reading (and reading about) Buddenbrooks is that it was supposedly Faulkner's favorite novel. (This is an unattributed statement in the book's Wikipedia entry, yes, although I've encountered the sentiment elsewhere.)

Granted, Lowe-Porter's translation of Buddenbrooks didn't appear until 1924, so I can't say if Faulkner read it before or during his work on The Sound and the Fury, but I'm willing to believe that's the case based on some similarities in themes and characterizations. In particular, the relationship between Tony and Tom in Mann's novel seems like an influence on . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks: Serious Inquiries and Bad Credit

Since we're all currently disgusted with smooth-talking bankers, bad loans, and the whole ethic of overlooking certain facts that we'd rather not know about, I thought it would be good to discuss how a very important bad loan in Buddenbrooks very closely mirrors our own subprime situation.

First a little stage-setting: you'll remember that Tony Buddenbrook, in a sudden burst of family loyalty, has decided to go ahead and marry the rather distasteful Herr Grünlich. Of course, she isn't only doing this for family: as the wife of a rich businessman, Tony will be able to live quite . . . continue reading, and add your comments

From Buddenbrooks to Mann’s Future

Sacha pulls a great quote in his recent post on Buddenbrooks. I agree with Sacha that it's a worthwhile quote for what it shows about the evolution of Tom Buddenbrook from a man who once bought in to the idea of a rational, accessible world to a man who approaches life with a philosophy that is nearly existential.

But there's another reason I like this quote. It tells us about Mann, the author. For multiple reasons, Buddenbrooks is commonly regarded as different from Mann's later works, which are not only different stylistically but also have a much more . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks: Why We Care

Scott asked a valuable question: Why should we care about these people?

He cited the passage on p. 154 regarding Tony's experience with the family history, which I agree is Mann's first explicit answer to the issue. We care because this family is convinced of its own standing and importance, and not in a self-important or ironic way. Scott's right that Tony's experience in this scene is touching and illuminating, for her and for us.

And this got me thinking about Buddenbrooks' structure. I believe Mann makes us care because, in the first third of the novel, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks and Translation

I just wanted to briefly jump into the fray regarding the Buddenbrooks translation discussion. Sacha and John both seem to conclude that Mann in translation is necessarily diminished Mann:

Sacha: "As smoothly as Woods handles the speech of, say, Herr Permaneder, and as much as I understand that his character is supposed to be a parody of Bavarian culture, I wonder what nuances my lack of access to the German is denying me. . . . Questions like the ones my experience with Buddenbrooks are making me ask prompt the recognition that even the best translation loses something." . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks: Concerning Death, etc.

Late in Buddenbrooks (p. 633 in the Woods translation), family patriarch Thomas has an epiphany while reading a casually acquired book:

He was filled with an unfamiliar sense of immense and grateful contentment.  He felt the incomparable satisfaction of watching an enormously superior intellect grab hold of life, of cruel, mocking, powerful life, in order to subdue and condemn it.  What he felt was the satisfaction of a sufferer who has always known only shame and the bite of conscience for hiding the suffering that cold, hard life brings, and who now, suddenly, from the hand of a great . . . continue reading, and add your comments