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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

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)