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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 […]

Alex Ross's New Book

I really loved The Rest Is Noise by New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross, so I’m thrilled to hear FSG will be publishing his next book in September, called Listen to This.

A little surprising, though to see that the book is going from manuscript to print in a little under 9 months:

I have a habit of finishing books in hotels. I sent off The Rest Is Noise from the Omni in downtown Los Angeles; Listen To This, which Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish at the end of September, was dispatched last week from . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Vast Majority of Composers Don’t Earn a Living off Work

Alex Ross points to the results of a recent survey of American composers. One bit in particular caught my attention:

They have a median total income of $45,000, and, on average, they derive 19% of that amount from composition. Yet they spend twenty-seven hours a week on composing-related activities. Eighty-five respondents — 6.4% of the total — make a living entirely from writing music.

Obviously classical music composers and authors isn’t an apples to apples comparison, but I do think it’s instructive that only 6.4% of them earn a living off their work. As with classical music, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Can You Read with Music?

At The Guardian, Sam Jordison says no to reading with music, of any kind:

As for novels, forget it. Even music that doesn’t ask too much – or can at least be enjoyed in the background – can cause problems. Brian Eno’s haunting Music For Airports has ruined PG Wodehouse for me in the past. Almost as much as the noise it was supposed to neuter: a woman (old, I might add) yelling down her mobile about the weather. The happy tinkling of Chopin has rendered absurd grisly scenes in Cain’s Book and tragedy in A Farewell To . . . continue reading, and add your comments

All of Stravinsky at Your Fingertips

Alex Ross notes that you can purchase a boxed set of almost everything Strvinsky ever wrote (that’s 22 CDs of music) for £17.99. Though this deal isn’t available in the States, Ross says his boxed set took only 8 days to transit the Atlantic.

That is one incredible price (and it becomes more and more incredible as the pound continues to take a beating), but I will say that Strvinsky is the set’s conductor, and I have heard that he isn’t the best interpretor of his works.

Gubaidulina at the SFS

Alex Ross has links to some reports on how symphonies around the U.S. are weathering this recession so far. Some are remaining prosperous, but others are seeing declines in attendance and donations.

If you’re not planning to already, you should really resolve to see at least one symphonic performance in 2009. Not just as a way to help the arts in your community, but simply because the symphony is an amazing experience.

The first symphony performance I’ll be attending in this new year will come in late February when Anne-Sophie Mutter comes to town for the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Classical Year in Review

Alex Ross offers his favorite classical recordings from 2008. Lots of good stuff here, including:

“Hommage à Messiaen”; Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano (Deutsche Grammophon).

John Adams, “Doctor Atomic”; Gerald Finley, baritone, with Lawrence Renes conducting the Netherlands Opera (Opus Arte DVD).

The Rest Is Noise “Glossary”

One of the things I most liked about Alex Ross’s survey of 20th century classical were his readings of the music. In many cases, he was able to give a sense of how the music worked and deliver a reading of a piece (in a note-by-note, quasi-literary sense) that could even be understood by those on whom terms such as "triad" and "first inversion" are lost. (I’m a good test case, since I’m exactly that person.)

To coincide with the paperback release of The Rest Is Noise, Ross has made it possible for any of us to quickly grasp . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Doctor Atomic DVD

Just to follow up from earlier this week, there actually is a DVD version of Doctor Atomic available, of a performance that I’m told largely duplicates the cast of the world premiere.