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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com
  • Marcos Giralt TorrenteMarcos Giralt Torrente

    My piece covering two new translations of books by Marcos Giralt Torrente—Paris and Father and Son: A Lifetime—has just... »
  • A Little Lumpen NovelitaA Little Lumpen Novelita

    The latest Bolaño, reviewed at M&L. In one of the monologues that make up the long middle section of Roberto... »
  • ePoetryePoetry

    I don't really think poetry written for print works in the electronic format. You can make an argument that there isn't a whole... »
  • Issue 37 of The Quarterly ConversationIssue 37 of The Quarterly Conversation

    Here it is. If you're the kind that doesn't like to just jump into things, full TOC after the... »
  • The Translation BestsellerThe Translation Bestseller

    I wonder if, given the minuscule amount of translated books published each year, but the relative regularity of a bestseller... »
  • Future LibraryFuture Library

    Cool idea. Edouard Levé would have been a fantastic participant. A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka,... »
  • Juan Jose SaerJuan Jose Saer

    You all should really be reading Juan Jose Saer (if you're not already). His books have a very particular feel . . . I could... »
  • In the ArchipelagoIn the Archipelago

    Jill Schoolman, interviewed at BOMB. Hope everybody reading this in the Bay Area will come out to the event with Scholastique... »
  • How They ThinkHow They Think

    Okay, I know it's wrong to respond to clickbait, but—the thing that pisses me off about this is that it's somehow a... »
  • FlamethrowersFlamethrowers

    It's kind of amazing that the NYRB published Frederick Seidel's lazy review of The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, one of last... »

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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

My LA Times Review of Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace

You can find my LA Times review of David Lipsky’s book about traveling around with David Foster Wallace at the tail end of the Infinite Jest book tour here. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

On Editing DFW

GQ interviews Deborah Treisman, who worked on the two New Yorker excerpts (“Good People” and “Wiggle Room”) from the unfinished DFW novel, “The Pale King”:

David was wonderful to edit because he was so involved with the minutiae of his work—he had a long explanation for every decision that he’d made, and yet, at the same time, he was willing to rethink anything that didn’t seem to be landing well for the reader. Editing him was sometimes a more painstaking process than editing most writers, but it was a genuine pleasure to engage with his intelligence and . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Pale King Excerpt in The New Yorker

Right here.

For some context (and grave doubts as to The Pale King's publish-ability as a completed novel) see DT Max's excellent piece on Wallace's suicide and post-Infinite Jest novel-writing.

And lastly, there are The Quarterly Conversation's own thoughts on posthumous publication.

David Foster Wallace in Tin House

The current Tin House has fiction by David Foster Wallace: “THE PLANET TRILLAPHON AS IT STANDS IN RELATION TO THE BAD THING.”

Not sure what this is.

My Infinite Summer: Part II Of Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, from Girl With Curious Hair

Last week I discussed David Foster Wallace's important novella, "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way." I thought it had a number of flaws–in fact, I'd say that on the whole the novella doesn't work for me. Although last week I did mention that the piece is still worth reading, especially as a bridge between his early writing and his masterpiece, Infinite Jest. Now I'd like to write a little about why I think that is.

Several years after reading Infinite Jest, one of the things I still most admire about that book is Wallace's . . . continue reading, and add your comments

My Infinite Summer: Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, from Girl With Curious Hair

Given the author's own thoughts on it, it's difficult to read David Foster Wallace's novella "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way" without bias:

Larry McCaffery: Why is meta-metafiction a trap? Isn’t that what you were doing in "Westward"?

David Foster Wallace: That’s a Rog. And maybe "Westward"’s only real value’ll be showing the kind of pretentious loops you fall into now if you fuck around with recursion. My idea in "Westward" was to do with metafiction what Moore’s poetry or like DeLillo’s "Libra" had done with other mediated myths. I wanted to get the Armageddon-explosion, the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Infinite Summer: David Foster Wallace as Militant Grammarian

If you’re going to write a book featuring a Militant Grammarian as a character, it probably behooves you to cross every ‘t’ and forget no tittles, to split no infinitives and dangle no participles. David Foster Wallace’s long, grandly periodic sentences, which often resemble nothing so much as a prolonged clay court baseline rally, are not helpful in this regard; the multiple subordinations, extended parentheticals, and drifting subject matter are enough to give a prescriptive grammarian palpitations.

Yet Wallace is perhaps more careful than he needs to be with his reader, more solicitous of the possibility that the string of the sentence has crossed itself one too many times, and its referents and antecedents have become blurred and disordered. Quite frequently, he simply adds a parenthetical or appositional reminder of who a pronoun refers to, just to let you know about whom we’re still talking. For instance,

Orin’s decision to attend college pleased his parents a great deal, although Mrs. Avril Incandenza, especially, had gone out of her way to make it clear that whatever Orin decided to do would please them because they stood squarely behind and in full support of him, Orin, and any decision his very best thinking yielded. (283)

That’s a fairly tame sentence as far as these things go; for a real whopper, see page 295, beginning with “He told Joelle van Dyne…” Thirteen lines later, Wallace finds it necessary to insert a kindly “(O.)” just to let you know that Joelle hasn’t started talking to another man.

A more straightforward example, which is played very well for laughs, is the sentence “There is something queerly poignant about a deeply faded tattoo, a poignancy something along the lines of coming upon the tiny and poignantly unfashionable clothes of a child long-since grown up in an attic trunk somewhere (the clothes, not the grown child, Ewell confirmed for G. Day)” (209). The parenthetical clause here is ostensibly clarifying a humorously misplaced modifier of the kind and quality that Strunk & White might use to demonstrate the perils of lax composition. Of course, no one would actually get mixed up by this—the syntactically correct interpretation is just too bizarre and unlikely, even for Ewell. Wallace can’t actually be concerned that this sentence might be misinterpreted; he’s just having a little fun with Ewell’s batsness.

But worrying about the reader’s confusion with pronominal antecedents is just one possible explanation of why these little tagged modifiers pop up from time to time, and I tend to believe, now at least, after some thought, that it’s not even a very good one. Even in the first sentence I quoted above, although James O. is invoked indirectly by the blanket reference to “parents,” there is really no possible confusion as to whom any subsequent “him” might be referring, particularly not when we’re talking about a “him” who is being fully supported. The “him, Orin,” construction is wholly superfluous; there’s just no possible ambiguity that would require a reiteration of the referent. And while I think that Wallace takes a slightly erratic view of his audience’s intellectual acumen and knowledge, sometimes giving us a fairly casual and indifferent gloss on a bit of arcana, at other times delivering exhaustively granular detail on completely tangential material, there is no way David Foster Wallace thinks you can’t follow the syntactic traffic signs for a measly 55-word sentence.

But if excessive syntactic solicitude is not the purpose of these “him, Orin,” constructions, then what is?

Continue reading Infinite Summer: David Foster Wallace as Militant Grammarian

DeLillo Character Reviews David Foster Wallace

A character from multiple DeLillo novels, has written a critique of Wallace’s work. The author is Jay Murray Siskind, probably best-known as the professor in White Noise:

Anyone familiar with White Noise should recognize the clues that the supposed reviewer is DeLillo’s character and not some real live scholar with the same name: there’s the fictional Blacksmith College (which, while not the college portrayed in White Noise, is a name of one of the neighboring towns); there are the fake footnotes in the review referring to other characters and details from . . . continue reading, and add your comments

My Infinite Summer: “Good Old Neon,” from Oblivion

I'm fairly sure that David Foster Wallace's short story "Good Old Neon," published in the collection Oblivion, is the most celebrated piece of writing in the author's post-Infinite Jest career. It is certainly the most lauded story to appear in Oblivion: it received an O. Henry Award, was the most consistently praised piece in the mixed reviews that greeted Oblivion upon publication, and was mentioned again and again (for reasons both literary and autobiographical) after the suicide.

The piece, which I read this week for the first time, strikes me as in many ways . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Contra Infinite Summer

Valve bloger Scott Eric Kaufman offers what must be among the dumber reasons for not reading Infinite Jest:

Am I alone in finding the whole idea of Infinite Summer a little morbid? The renewed interest in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is an obvious Good Thing—a first step toward popular as well as academic canonization—but having lived through the recent Michael Jackson Media Event, I can’t help but wonder whether the desire to read Wallace’s novel is akin downloading Thriller because Some Important Someone died. Do I sound like I’m thwacking some straw man with shovel? . . . continue reading, and add your comments