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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 […]

Life Big Read Question Thread 2

perec-stamp

Give me your questions, your answers for this week’s reading. And I’d like to pull this from last week’s question thread . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: A Better Mousetrap

mousetrap

As I read this week’s section, I felt that what was most coming though was the idea of quests that become traps. I first noticed this in that quote about Bartlebooth that I mentioned earlier this week and which I will reproduce here:

That’s what struck Valene the most, his gaze which did not manage to meet his own, as if Bartlebooth had sought to look behind his head, had wanted to pierce his head to reach beyond it in the neutral asylum of the stairwell with it’s trompe-loeil decorations mimicking old marbling and its staff skirting board made to resemble wood panelling. There was in that avoiding look something more violent than a void, something that was not merely pride or hatred, but almost panic, something like a mad hope, like an appeal for help, like a signal of distress. [142]

We also see this trope in the quest-stories that Perec tells, most notably in the utterly bizarre one about the nanny . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: Surfaces

puzzle-surfaces

manual-big-read-schedule/”>this week’s section, with some more fully fleshed thoughts to come later in the week, once we’ve all had a fair chance to get through to the end. We’ve already been talking a great deal about things and descriptions, so now it’s time to talk about surfaces. I’m thinking specifically in terms of Sherwood’s Tale, in which he purchases what he believes to be the Holy Grail but is in fact scammed by crooks [pp. 96 - 109]. It is one of those elaborate confidence scams where a person is shown one small piece of evidence after another to slowly build up trust in what is ultimately a big, unbelievable falsehood . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

THe Rise of Daily Life in French Lit

The new Words Without Borders blog has shot out of the box with their ongoing Perec coverage. The latest piece is an excellent, lengthy interview between Martin Riker of the Dalkey Archive Press and Perec-scholar Warren Motte.

Here’s a little taste:

MR: This is something else I wanted to ask you about, the role of daily life in recent French fiction, and the role Perec played in creating this literary climate. I’m particularly interested in how often in recent French fiction this interest overlaps with a sense of playfulness–the ludic–and whether that’s an inevitable overlap.

WM: It . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Perec's Unfinished Books

Even wonder what Georges Perec would have written if he hadn’t died of cancer at 45? At Words Without Borders Laird Hunt gives some idea of literature’s loss:

In December 1976 Georges Perec, who wrote, both copiously and brilliantly as it occurred, put a remarkable document into the hands of Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens, founder of the wonderful independent French house P.O.L. In it, Perec had set down not just the works he was in the process of writing and/or would write, but also those he planned to write and wouldn’t. . . .

What was in this document? . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Publishing Georges Perec

(Godine is publishing a new, corrected edition of Life A User's Manual and the first-ever English edition of Perec's essays collected in Thoughts of Sorts. I recently spoke with Susan Barba, an editor at Godine who worked on both of these books.)

Scott Esposito: My first question has to do with what's new in this edition of Life A User's Manual. The original translation by David Bellos was published in 1987, and in the ensuing 20-some years there's been considerable attention devoted to both the original and Bellos's translation. What kind of changes have . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Machine by Georges Perec Rev’d at Complete Review

Michael Orthofer reviews "The Machine," a radio play written by Geroges Perec and published for the first time in English in the recent all-Perec issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction.

I've read this piece in my copy of the RCF, and it's great. Here are some of Michael's thoughts:

Perec takes the poem and subjects it to a number of operations — protocols that are, essentially, Oulipian constraints. And, as he explains:

To the attentive listener it may become clear that this play about language not only describes the functioning . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Special Perec Issue of the RCF

Via the Dalkey Archive's monthly newsletter. I'll be looking forward to this:

Spring RCF…

The Spring Review of Contemporary Fiction is a special issue on Georges Perec, updating our previous Perec issue, with an updated introduction by David Bellos and including a never-before-published Perec radio play.

Georges Perec’s Movie

Via RSB, I find this nice report from The Auteurs on Georges Perec’s 1974 movie Un Homme Qui Dort. The movie is based on Perec’s early novella of the same name (published in English by Godine as A Man Asleep.)

The occasion of this report is Dort’s release on DVD (although currently unavailable through Amazon U.S. Based on The Auteurs’s description (and some of the stills), Dort sounds somewhat similar to Robbe-Grillet’s experimental film, Last Year at Marienbad:

In the early ’70s Perec and his friend Bernard Queysanne, a . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life A User's Manual

Something tells me Georges Perec would find all this ruckus over plagiarism silly.

From Life A User’s Manual:

. . . and Moriane with its alabaster gates transparent in the sunlight, its coral columns supporting pediments encrusted with serpentine, its villas all of glass, like aquariums where the shadows of dancing girls with silvery scales swim beneath medusa-shaped chandeliers.

From Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities:

When you have forded the river, when you have crossed the mountain pass, you suddenly find before you the city of Moriana, its alabaster gates transparent in the sunlight, its coral columns supporting . . . continue reading, and add your comments