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 […]

What Happens When You Play Suburban Malaise Too Close — AM Homes and Music for Torching

One wants to like Music for Torching by AM Homes, a book that I read at the insistence of some people after asking for recommendations of worthwhile English-language authors. Suburban decay is a lovely theme for a novel by an American about America, and Homes' first chapter is worth the big deal everyone's made about it. (Briefly: an ungrateful, completely unhappy suburban couple with two young boys attempts to burn down their house. It only partly succeeds. Novel goes from there.) Yet I never fully felt that this novel had captured my interest.

Homes . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Anthologies Are Kafka’s Spot in Publishing

JC Hallman is still blogging up a storm about his book over at the Tin House blog. (And, for about the 18th time, we've published an adapted version of his intro to the book that I think everyone should check out.)

Hallman has stopped poking the ribs of the academic community on the Tin House blog and is now discussing the nightmare that is trying to publish a profitable anthology.

The problem with The Story About the Story was multi-fold. When we write about reading, we want to cite things, to use examples—these become permissions issues, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Re-Thinking The Trial

Lots of interesting thoughts on The Trial by Frank Kafka at this post of Andrew’s.

This one in particular struck me:

And while The Trial has never, I think, been read in these terms of indomitable human wills, etc., what I do think is the case is that Kafka’s writings have been homogenized (so that the tone of some of the stories is taken to be Kafka’s only tone) and that the product of that homogenization was employed as the necessary complement of the project to restore the human will: reading Kafka . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Kobo Abe Is Pretty Great, So Far

If you know Kobo Abe, it's probably as the guy who wrote the book that became the movie about a Japanese businessman trapped into a giant hole in the desert, where he is forced to shovel sand and eventually comes to see his prison as his home.

I watched The Woman in the Dunes not too long ago, and now I've gotten on an Abe kick. I'm currently working through The Broken Map, which shares a lot of themes with Dunes: a pervasive sense of futility; the almost imperceptibly gradual but profound . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Aharon Appelfeld and Kafka

Dan Green has an interesting post on the Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld. The post touches on a number of points related to his novel All Whom I Have Loved, but I wanted to quote Dan's take on Appelfeld vis a vis Kafka:

Appelfeld is often enough compared to Kafka, but this comparison in turn generally assumes that Kafka's fiction is allegorical in a more or less overt way. But of course Kafka created narratives that appear to incorporate an allegorical level of meaning only to complicate and ultimately to deny that meaning. Kafka's world purports to . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Kafkaesque Criticism

Writing on Franz Kafka: The Office Writings in The New Republic, Louis Begley makes Kafka criticism sound a little, well, Kafkaesque:

Thus was constituted the trove of Kafka's painfully personal papers that has since been ransacked by scholars looking for the sources of his inspiration, for the materials that he put to use in his fiction. They have battened by preference on scraps of paper: unconnected pages in his notebooks, for example, of which there are many. Stanley Corngold, one of the editors of The Office Writings, repeats in his contribution to the volume, as though they . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Feel the Strangulation!

This essay on several recent books by or about Kafka turns up this gem from the ossified Austro-Hungarian empire:

At the fin de siècle, the state bureaucracy already held considerable sway over people’s lives and selves, and Kafka wrote from the center of the age’s contradictions and anxieties. When he assumed his position at the Insurance Institute in 1908, after having spent a dismal year in the employ of Assicurazioni Generali, an Italian insurer, the Dual Monarchy was groaning under a superabundance of paperwork. Legislation enacted in the 1880s had ushered in the European welfare state, and its . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Next Village

This Space points me to The Next Village, a blog that invites writers and artists to respond to a very short short story of Kafka’s. (It’s about 50 words long.)

An interesting way to spread your affection for a piece of literature.

Kirsch on Kafka

On the heels of the new translation of Kafka’s novel Amerika, the NTYBR publishes a short essay on it by Adam Kirsch.

Kirsch spends some time situating the work in Kafka’s oeuvre and discusses the provenance of the titular k:

The [previous] translator Michael Hofmann, whose English version of the book appeared in 1996, correctly called it “the least read, the least written about and the least ‘Kafka’ ” of his three novels. Now Schocken Books, which has been the main publisher of Kafka’s works since the 1930s, hopes to reintroduce his first novel to the world . . . continue reading, and add your comments

This Is Not How I Pictured Kafka’s Infernal Machine

The disco ball really screws it up.