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.


  • [[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
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • 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 […]

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.