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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.

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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 […]

Toward An Understanding of The Last Samurai: Quests

The Last Samurai is an exceedingly long and complex novel, and I don’t want to try and attempt a full and rigorous reading of it here, but I do think I can say a number of useful and interesting things about the book without going quite that far. I think it’s worthwhile to consider how Samurai might be a variant of the quest novel. That’s what I’m going to explore right here. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai: Charles-Valentin Alkan

I just finished up with The Last Samurai today, and I was tickled to see the composer Charles-Valentin Alkan make an appearance toward the end. While I’d disagree that Alkan is quite as obscure as DeWitt makes him out to be (or maybe his reputation has grown in the 10 years since TLS was published), it’s very true that he gets nowhere near the acclaim of his more celebrated contemporaries (e.g., Chopin) even though he did compose some remarkable music. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai: A Good Samurai Will Parry the Blow

I was out of action for half of last week, but I’m hoping to finish up The Last Samurai today and get together some concluding thoughts on the book in short order. In advance of that, here’s something that I can’t quite reconcile: I’m struck by the fact that Ludo compares declaring a man is his father to an elegant samurai cutting down a man with one awe-inspiring blow of his sword. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai: Why Have So Many of Us Petered Out for the Moment?

“We don’t do anything.” We said this to our parents, and now we hear our children saying it all over again. Ludo’s complaint is plastered in the most obvious place imaginable: chapter headings at the beginning of the novel. Think back: . . . . . . . . . .

As the novel grows, the situation gets better, for Ludo at least. He starts doing things. Not just turning around in circles on the Circle Line. . . .

. . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai: Fathers and Reasons

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Hugh Carey this week, which comprises roughly the last half of this week’s reading. I like the story a great deal, but the way it relates to the rest of The Last Samurai remains elusive. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai: Week 4 Notes and Annotations

We’ve pulled into the nice, fat middle of The Last Samurai. Here are a few notes I found for this section–add yours in on the comments.

Tyrone Power school of acting. Now hat Sibylla has mentioned the “Tyrone Power school of acting” more than a few times to deride certain individuals, I thought I’d pull up an image to we can see what she means when she says, for instance, “and he did change, but only in the way that someone from the Tyrone Power school of acting would show maturity: mouth set, furrowed brow, this is someone . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai: Cultural Literacy and Other Grown-Up Things

Now that we’re into the meat of this book, I think it’s time to talk about a theme I’ve been tracking for a while and that has really taken center stage in our third section. That would be cultural literacy. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai References and Annotations Thread: Week 3

Last Samurai-ers–you know what to do. And here’s a thought that occurred to me from last week’s section. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai: The Burden of Genius

For instance, the section starts out with the piano-playing dreams of the narrator’s mother (and I like how each of our sections has begun by narrating the life history of each of the narrator’s parents). It turns out that when her mother goes for an audition at Julliard, she’s essentially told that though she is a pianist of talent, she is nowhere near prepared to explore that talent. So she is instructed to perform a set of exercises ever day for two hours for a year, after which she may be prepared to begin. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Samurai: The Author as Woman

Inevitably, we’ve already had a couple of references to Helen DeWitt’s gender in the comments to the first week of The Last Samurai discussion, so I’d like to toss this point out there to everyone. I’m not one of those readers who thinks that an author’s biography is irrelevant to her work, and the fact is that several aspects of The Last Samurai make DeWitt’s gender germane to a discussion–in particular, the postmodern novel of information tends to be a boy’s club, so it is noteworthy that DeWitt is a woman; also, the plot of Last Samurai deals in no small part with fathers, sons, mothers, and parents in general, all things that will be seen in very different ways depending on which gender’s perspective you are looking from. . . . continue reading, and add your comments