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 […]

Castle by J Robert Lennon Review

Jeff Vandermeer has a good review of Castle by J Robert Lennon in the Barnes & Noble Review:

Intense psychological profiles dominate the literature of unease, sometimes known as "neo-gothic" and typified by such modern masters as Brian Evenson. In these tales, the suggestion of something not quite right about the narrator or the protagonist is followed by the dread that we will learn unsettling information not only about the character but about ourselves. In Castle, an often brilliant new novel by J. Robert Lennon, this classic paradigm is updated for a . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Pigeon Post by Dumitru Tsepeneag Review

Here's another one I'm hoping to read in the next couple months. Dumitru Tsepeneag's Pigeon Post sounds great:

The term "pigeon post" refers to the use of homing pigeons to deliver messages. Perhaps the best known was the French Pigeon Post of the Franco-Prussian War in the late nineteenth century, which allowed messages to travel into Paris across Prussian lines, representing a fluidity between an otherwise rigid divide of East and West. The sometimes difficult task of crossing borders and disseminating information informs the underlying tension of Romanian writer Dumitru Tsepeneag's novel Pigeon . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Contra American Rust

Over at Open Letters, Karen Vanuska takes issue with Philipp Meyer's Pulitzer-contender, American Rust:

But wanting magic to arise from those circumstances doesn’t make one bit of difference to the story found between the covers of American Rust. This novel is in desperate need of an exceptional editor rather than a myth. Amidst all that rust, there’s a good story, a few good characters, and it’s the first book that I’ve read in a long while that deserves to have American in its title; Meyer’s take on what it means to be an average Joe-the-Plumber-American holds promise . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey Review

A first novel by Samantha Harvey, The Wildnerness, sounds good. The B&N review:

A device literary novelists sometimes use to pleasing effect is to unanchor certain images or thoughts so that they float free in the text, recurring for reasons that remain partially obscure. What the text loses in transparency is more than offset by what it gains in enigmatic resonance, musicality, and the delayed gratification provided to the reader by the eventual discovery of where these specially polished bits of the mosaic belong. In her astonishingly accomplished first novel, The Wilderness, Samantha Harvey has grounded this . . . continue reading, and add your comments

A Jury of Her Peers by Elaine Showalter

The Economist has a useful summary of Elaine Showalter's massive new overview of women authors in America, A Jury of Her Peers:

Ms Showalter does not attempt to unravel the intractable moral and legal conundrums raised by this unsettling parable, but she uses it as a metaphor to ask questions about literary judgment. Certainly, in the early 20th century, when literature was being defined as an academic subject, establishment male critics who wanted to make American literature “more energetic and masculine” actively attempted to exclude female writers from the canon. In the 1970s, when Ms . . . continue reading, and add your comments

In the United States of Africa Review

Chad reviews a book whose premise is that Africa is as rich as the U.S., and the U.S. is as rich as Africa:

In the opening pages we’re introduced to Yacuba, a “flea-ridden Germanic or Alemanic carpenter” who has fled AIDS-ridden, poverty-stricken Europe in hopes of a better life in the much wealthier and cleaner United States of Africa. Through Yacuba we’re introduced to a world where Quebec is at war with the American Midwest, where the “white trash” of Europe speak an undecipherable “white pidgin dialect,” and where the African media fans the flames . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Machine by Peter Adolphsen Review

Wow. Peter Adolphsen’s Machine sounds pretty incredible. From Three Percent’s review:

Although Danish author Peter Adolphsen has made a name for himself as a formalist for whom economy is a virtue (to date his five novels and short story collections are less than 300 pages combined), “as a reader,” one reviewer writes, “you feel you have covered a huge distance with him.” Drawing comparisons to Borges and Kafka, Adolphsen has written parables and parodies, “ultrashort biographies,” children’s books, and a collection called En Million Historier (A Million Stories), which allows the reader to construct, well, a million . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Yalo by Elias Khoury Review

We’ve just published my review of Yalo by Elias Khoury at The Quarterly Conversation.

Elias Khoury has been called Beirut’s answer to Joan Didion or Orhan Pamuk: the one contemporary author who has made that place his own. His novel Gate of the Sun is widely regarded as one of the major works of Arabic literature of the late 20th century.

Yalo, which is on the Best Translated Book Award shortlist, has been praised as a distillation of Gate of the Sun. It’s a quasi-first-person, highly unreliable account of the life of a man currently being . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Milk, Sulphate, and, Alby Starvation Review

Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation, by Martin Millar, has to be one of the stranger books that’s come out of the U.K. in a while. And I mean that in a good way. Powells.com:

Alby Starvation, the titular character of Martin Millar’s debut novel (originally published in 1987), is a speed dealer in Brixton who likes reggae and comic books. Sadly, but to the benefit of the reader, his physical and mental state are deteriorating at a rapid pace. He has no job. It appears as if he’s dying, with a face "that looks a hundred years . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li Review

Saw this review of The Vagrants, a first novel by a Yiyun Li, Chinese-American author who received much favorable attention for her first short story collection. The Guardian:

Yiyun Li’s 2005 story collection A Thousand Years of Good Prayers – which won four prizes, including the Guardian First Book award – was admired for taking a calm, Chekhovian look at a changing China and the lives of Chinese emigrants. It was also an impressive feat of cross-cultural adaptation, addressing Chinese experience in American English using mostly European literary models. Born in Beijing in 1972, Li moved . . . continue reading, and add your comments