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.


  • 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 […]

The Quotable Kafka

My edition of Kafka’s complete short stories tells me that the short story "The Great Wall of China" "though apparently a fragment, is so perfect in itself that it may be read as a finished work." Indeed. Borges would have been proud to have written it.

Reading the stories, I’ve come to find out that quite a number of them are considered fragments. In a couple it’s obvious, but in many it’s really not. Kafka’s fragments are better than a lot of people’s finished efforts. I’ve also discovered that quite a number of his stories were published in . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Quotable Viktor Shklovsky

From Literature and Cinematography, originally written in 1923:

The poetics of the motion picture is a poetics of pure plot.

Blessed are the lowly ones in the history of art, for theirs is the kingdom of the future.

To my horror, I have discovered abroad that in America the film industry is the third-largest industry, exceeded only by metallurgy and textiles.

An image is like a parallelism with its first part suppressed. . . . A riddle is a parallelism with the first part of the parallel omitted and with the possibility of several substitutions.

The film script . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Problem with Quoting Peter Nadas

I’m not sure if A Book of Memories is representative of Peter Nadas’s work, but if it is then this author is difficult to quote concisely. This isn’t just a matter of most of his sentences being paragraph-length (and most of them are, and the paragraphs tend to be page-length), this is also a matter of the very distributed way in which his sentences convey meaning. Nadas’s writing (again, judging only by A Book of Memories) eludes concision because of the way his sentences loop back and back in upon themselves, probe each nuance as it comes up, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Following Story

A teacher of Dutch–well, if you wanted to draw a cartoon of the type, you could take him as your model. Teaching children the language they were already hearing in the echo chamber of the womb long before they were born, and stunting the natural growth of that language with tedious drivel about ordinal numbers, double possessives, split infinitives, predicate nouns, and prepositional phrases is bad enough, but to look like an underdone cutlet and pontificate about poetry, that’s too much. And not only did he lay down the law about poetry, he wrote it too. Every few years . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Galatea 2.2

I read then, everything I could lay hands on. Reading was my virgin continent. I read instantly upon awakening, and was still at it well past the hour that consciousness shut down. I read for nothing, for a pleasure difficult to describe and impossible afterwards to recover.

The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick

The Shekina fund-raiser was held in one of those mazy Upper West Side apartments where it is impossible to find the bathroom. You wander from corridor to corridor, tentatively entering bedrooms still redolent of their night odors, where the bedspreads have lain folded and unused on chairs for months. Sometimes on these journeys there will be a bewildered young child standing fearfully in your path, or else an unexpected small animal, but mostly you will encounter nothing but the stale mixed smells of an aging building. Such apartments are like demoralized old women shrouded in wrinkles, who, mourning their . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Golem Song by Marc Estrin

The walls were floor-to-ceilinged with books–the great works of all periods. No less-than-literature volumes here. The exalted Germans and towering Russians took eye-level pride of place. And there were shrines, little face-out areas of shelving, sometimes decorated with statuettes or postcards–Buddha and Beethoven, Jarry and Rabelais, Einstein and Dostoevsky, George Steiner and Samuel Beckett, Shakespeare, Joyce, and Dylan Thomas, Wittgenstein and Spengler, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, and Clock–and the mysterious cover of Alexander Theroux’s Darconville’s Cat. And music galore. Old vinyls, cassettes, and CDs, arranged by composer, from Adam de la Halle to Zelenka. The complete works of every major composer . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick

There, at any rate, Puttermesser would sit, in Eden, under a middle-sized tree, in the solid blaze of an infinite heart-of-summer July green, green, green everywhere, green above and green below, herself gleaming and made glorious by sweat, every inch annihilated, fecundity dismissed. And there Puttermesser would, as she imagined it, take in. Ready to her left hand, the box of fudge (rather like the fudge sold to the lower school by the eighth-grade cooking class in P.S. 74, the Bronx, circa 1942); ready to her right hand, a borrowed steeple of library books . . .

Here Puttermesser . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Golem Song

Alan gawked at the lipstick kiss on his shoulder, and gazed back at the poster he had been leaning on. A blonde male model, shot head-first, recumbent in his briefs, foreshortened, looking for all the world like a god on a slab, featuring a pudendal mountain under pesticide-free cotton. At the peak of the mount, as if planted by Sir Edmund Hilary’s wife herself, a full-mouthed press of lipstick, yum. This was the attestation that had transferred itself (less passionately) to Alan’s shoulder. Sex in the age of mechanical reproduction.

The Gold Bug Variations

What he had done, how he had chosen to spend his energies, really was science. A way of looking, reverencing. And the purpose of all science, like living, which amounts ot the same thing, was not the accumulations of Gnostic power, fixing of formulas for the names of God, stockpiling brutal efficiency, accomplishing the sadistic myth of progress. the purpose of science was to revive and cultivate a perpetual state of wonder. For nothing deserved wonder so much as our capacity to feel it. (611)