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 […]

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