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 […]

Against the Short Novel, Even When Don DeLillo Is the Author

Lately I’ve been pushing Cesar Aira on people, which means I’m having a lot of conversations these days about how Americans don’t respect short novels. They’re insubstantial. They offend our sense of value, always measured by the gross poundage we get per dollar. Let’s just go ahead and say it: they feel European, like one of those pathetic little smart cars.

Cesar Aira seems almost designed to refute these culturally wired reactions against the short novel. Yes, his novels can be read quickly, but they’re so intricately crafted and clever in their ambiguity that any good reader will . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Cesar Aira Interview

aira-tub

Very lengthy interview with Cesar Aira in Letras Libres. Aira is his usual irascible self, with some intereting thoughts on translation:

Quisiera ahora hablar de su papel como un muy buen traductor. Quizá ahí uno se acerca a una seriedad y un rigor…

A una corrección sobre todo. Pero yo siempre a la traducción la tomé como un oficio del que viví. Ahí sí lo vi con todo pragmatismo, hasta tal punto que me especialicé en literatura mala. Porque los editores pagan lo mismo por la mala que por la buena, y la buena es mucho más difícil . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Literature’s Ghosts

ghosts

Something I love about Cesar Aira–and a reason why we need more of his books available in translation–is his incredible range. This is they guy who can go from writing an off-kilter-but-clearly-realist novel to creating a Calvino-esque modern fable, and do an above-average job at each. (He's got 80-some more books left, and I'm dying to see them in my local bookstore.)

I just finished Ghosts, which seems to be a sort of extended allegory for the creative process in art. The book is about a half-finished high rise apartment building . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Cesar Aira At Feria Internacional del Libro de Guayaquil

Nice write-up on Cesar Aira, who was speaking at the Book Fair in Guayaquil, Peru.

The piece opens with a typically modest statement from the Argentine author:

“Mientras más grueso es un libro, menos literatura tiene”. La frase fue una de las sentencias del escritor argentino César Aira (1949), durante un conversatorio desarrollado el pasado sábado en el marco de la Feria Internacional del Libro, en Guayaquil. Y el dictamen fue duro, cuestionable para muchos, pero ceñido a las convicciones del narrador no tan popular como otros de su nacionalidad, pero que en una de sus obras, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Cesar Aira Interview

With the U.S. release of Cesar Aira's novel Ghosts, it's a good time for an interview. As far as I know, though, no one Stateside has conducted (or at least published) one. But Argentina's La Nacion offers an apparently unrelated interview with the Argentine.

It's an interesting piece. Riht off the bat Aira offers the tidbit that many of Argentina's new presses inaugurate their list with one of his many novels:

-¿Has pensado alguna vez que es muy complicado seguirte? Debe de . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Wimmer on Aira

Natasha Wimmer doesn't get too many words for her New York Times review of Ghosts by Cesar Aira, but she does make them count:

Aira likes nothing better than to probe the obscure workings of the mind, but he also writes scenes of great prosaic beauty. The modest, lovely New Year’s Eve party on the roof, complete with firecrackers and piles of fruit (“mosque-shaped apricots, bunches of green and black grapes, . . . bleeding strawberries”), is a velvety backdrop for the novel’s shocking final act.

At one point earlier in the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Ghosts by Cesar Aira in NYTBR, Eventually

The Literary Saloon reports that the NYTBR is finally catching on about Cesar Aira. That's good for them.

And while you wait for them to roll out their review of Aira's recently translated Ghosts, be sure not to miss our review of the same.

You can also read our lengthy essay on Aira, covering among other things his place in Argentine literature, his peculiar method of composition, and . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Ghosts by Cesar Aira Review

The Complete Review provides the first review I’ve seen of Ghosts, the newest translation from prodigious Argentine Cesar Aira.

It’s a curious little book (as many of Aira’s are), and we’ll be covering it in the spring issue of The Quarterly Conversation. But for now:

Ghosts is set largely on a construction site, a not-quite-finished apartment building. It begins with the future tenants all coming to have a look on the 31st of December, no one really minding that they can’t quite move in yet. The only residents at this time are the night watchman, Raúl . . . continue reading, and add your comments