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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

New Toussaint Coming from Dalkey

In a couple of weeks Dalkey will publish the latest Toussaint translation, Self-Portrait Abroad, coming in at a whopping 80 pages. This one sounds a bit more Running Away than Television.

It’s described by its translator, John Lambert, at Words Without Borders (which also includes an excerpt) as consisting:

of glimpses, less essays than reminiscences, of places Jean-Philippe Toussaint has traveled, often for readings or as the literary member in a group of French cultural emissaries. These locales, which include Kyoto, Hanoi, Prague, and Berlin, among others, serve as occasions for the author to sketch . . . continue reading, and add your comments

About 5,000 Reasons to Read Jean-Philippe Toussaint

That’s roughly what you’ll find in Tom McCarthy’s excellent LRB essay on the author. Placing Toussaint into the context of post-nouveaux roman authors (though McCarthy notes that Toussaint claims to find Robbe-Grillet unreadable), he offers excellent readings of most of Toussaint’s works, including untranslated ones:

Born in 1957, Toussaint was out of the blocks quickly: by the age of 35 he’d published four novels. It’s the last of these, the so far untranslated La Réticence, which most blatantly betrays his generation’s haunting by its predecessor. With its setting in an off-season fishing village, its quasi-repeating narrative loops that . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Review of Running Away

Nice to see a review of Jean Philippe Toussaint’s Running Away at Words Without Borders, although the general cold-shouldering of this author continues to baffle me (well, not really . . .):

This brief summary leaves out the feelings that form the real unity of the book; a dramatic plot is clearly not the main organizing principal of this novel. Toussaint makes use of the devices of a plot-based narrative, yet he consistently leaves mysteries unresolved and continuously deflates any dramatic tension that may have built up. From the beginning, the generic elements of a thriller . . . continue reading, and add your comments

CR Readers’ Picks

Based on Amazon purchases made through links on this website, the following are the "picks" of Conversational Reading’s readers for 2008:

#1

By a large margin, The Invention of Morel was the most popular purchase among readers of this blog. Obviously, my sincere praise of this book helped move it along, but I’m convinced that not nearly as many copies would have been purchased if this wasn’t a great book, and if Borges wasn’t Bioy’s literary collaborator. A great read, and if you haven’t had a chance to yet, definitely pick it up.

#2

Not really a surprise, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Publishing Toussaint at Dakley

Dalkey Archive editor and Quarterly Conversation contributor Martin Riker has a piece at the Semininary Co-Op Blog about how Dalkey came to publish three Jean-Philippe Toussaint works in the same year.

There’s something very exciting about publishing several of an author’s books together. Instead of putting a single work out into the world, you’re putting into the world a whole way of seeing. You’re saying: This is not just about a book. Here’s a writer who is doing something beyond mere temporary curiosity. This is the real thing, an actual innovation, literature finding a new way to . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Toussaint at Splice Today

Quarterly Conversation contributor John Lingan writes on Jean-Philippe Toussaint at Splice Today.

This is the philosophical thrust of Toussaint’s early work. The books’ aloof protagonists and unadorned language recall The Stranger, but Toussaint makes his larger points stylistically where Camus made his narratively; Meursault’s actions lead him to prison where his best coping mechanism is the resigned existentialism that Camus espoused. The Bathroom, Monsieur, and Camera more closely resemble The Crying of Lot 49’s shaggy, ultimately directionless structure, but without Pynchon’s mock-epic ambitions and paranoia. Rather, Toussaint’s everymen are trapped in their author’s own purposeful form. Their . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Toussaint Reviews

The Complete Review reviews the two new Dalkey books by Jean-Philippe Toussaint. As a reminder, The Bathroom is a reissue of the original English translation of Toussaint’s first published novel, and Camera is an original translation of one of Toussaint’s earlier novels. I believe Camera was his 3rd, but don’t quote me on that.

In my opinion, both of these books are worth reading. Though they’re short, you should really read them twice if you’re to make anything of them, so instead of two, 70-page lengthy novellas, it’s more like two, 140-page short novels.

I would agree . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Television

Scott McLemee looks at what sounds like the antecedent to Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s short novel Television.

Odd and nonlinear “Within the Context of No Context” itself certainly is. It is short, consisting of a number of brief sections. They range from a single sentence to several paragraphs, and each section has a title. While brief, the text actually takes a while to read. The relationships among the parts are oblique, and some of the prose has the strange feel that you would probably get from a translation of Schopenhauer done by Gertrude Stein.

“Within the Context of No . . . continue reading, and add your comments