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 […]

Recently Released: The Man in the Wooden Hat

Received a copy of The Man in the Wooden Hat a while back, and not it’s been published in the U.S. Looks fairly interesting, though I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to it. But the review coverage is generally favorable.

The Guardian:

What Gardam is particularly good at – and what made Old Filth so compelling – is creating for her characters façades of complete conventionality, which are then chipped away to reveal strange internal workings.

Jonathan Yardley:

Probably it will astonish American readers to learn . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Recently Received: Don Juan by Peter Handke and Translation Is a Love Affair by Jacques Poulin

Peter Handke is an author I’ve long meant to read. His novel Don Juan: His Own Version is forthcoming from FSG in February and recently arrived at my doorstep. I also managed to snag a copy of his novel Across at the SF Public Library’s gigantic used book sale, which (the book) I’ve been told is one of his best.

As to Don Juan, the Complete Review has reviewed it:

Don Juan neatly plays with that inherent contradiction of fiction: its absolutism — a complete and exclusive world rendered in mere . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Forthcoming: The Salt Smugglers by Gérard de Nerval

We'll be publishing a review of The Salt Smugglers by 19th-century Frenchman Gérard de Nerval in the winter issue of The Quarterly Conversation. The book looks extremely interesting, and I'm planning on reading it as soon as I've taken care of a couple others. It was originally written as a series of feuilleton, and Archipelago has published this book in two-column, newspaper format.

Nerval was an immensely interesting writer, winning adherents such as Proust, Breton, and Umberto Eco (the latter of which called his novel Sylvie a masterpiece). I've seen . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Forthcoming: Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

I don't usually cover this kind of book here, but Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne seems like it would have some appeal for the audience of this site, as Byrne is generally more interesting than the average author of this kind of book.

Here's a description of the book from Byrne's website:

Bicycle Diaries chronicles David’s observations and insights — what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about — as he pedals through and engages with some of the world’s major cities. In places . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Forthcoming: The Subversive Scribe by Suzanne Jill Levine

In my opinion, Suzanne Jill Levine must be a goddess of translation. I base this mainly on the fact that she's responsible for the Engligh-language editions of some of my favorite Latin American authors: Manuel Puig, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

She's also written a good deal about translation, and now Dalkey is re-issuing one Levine's books on translation, The Subversive Scribe. Basically, it's a series of essays built around some of Levine's greatest translations (e.g., Three Trapped Tigers, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth), where she discusses specific choices she made and gives close readings . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Forthcoming: The Immortals by Amit Chaudhuri

I’m looking forward to reading The Immortals by Amit Chaudhuri, just published here by Knopf and released earlier this year in Britain. It seems to be a dual family saga novel set in the 1970s and ’80s, and it got a ton of great press in the UK.

Here’s an excerpt from the book at Knopf’s website.

I’ve found some press Stateside (surely there will be more). First is this interview with the Boston Globe:

Q. This novel has been compared to Thomas Mann’s “Buddenbrooks.’’ . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Forthcoming: New Stories From The South, Edited By Madison Smartt Bell

Interesting anthology form Algonquin out next Tuesday: New Stories from the South 2009, edited by Madison Smartt Bell.

From the publisher’s website:

In the twenty-fourth volume of this distinguished anthology, Madison Smartt Bell chooses twenty-one distinctive pieces of short fiction to tell the story of the South as it is now. This is a South that is still recognizable but no longer predictable. As he says, “to the traditional black and white recipe (ever a tricky and volatile mixture) have been added new shades and strains from Asia and Central and South . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Antho of New Russian Fiction

A few weeks ago I discussed The Wall in My Head and Best European Fiction 2010. Now, yet another anthology of literature-in-translation: Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia. (Is it just me, or are there way more of these things on the market lately?).

The list of contributors on this antho looks very impressive–a lot of young writers that seem to be on the leading edge of Russian lit–as does the translators Tin House has pulled in here. I'm hoping to read this one soon and register some thoughts.

And . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Forthcoming: Driftless by David Rhodes

Driftless is publishing next week in paperback. It is the first book in 30 years from American author David Rhodes. From the publisher’s website:

When David Rhodes’ first three novels were published in the mid-seventies, he was acclaimed as “one of the best eyes in recent fiction” (John Gardner), and compared favorably to Sherwood Anderson. In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and unpublished for the subsequent three decades.

With Driftless, Rhodes returns to the midwestern landscape he knows so well, offering a fascinating and . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Recently Published: Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin was published on July 1 from City Lights books.

I mentioned the author and book last week here.

An excerpt from the book can be read here in the NYT.

Everything seemed to be going well in the two aquariums that still had life in them until one day fungus appeared on some angelfish that had survived from the early, better days. At first there were only some small clouds growing on their backs. Fish look strange in such conditions. Their color becomes blurred by a . . . continue reading, and add your comments