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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.


  • A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

Life Big Read: Question Thread

So I want to try something new here. Each week I’ll post a question thread, and then we all can post any questions at all we have about this week’s section in the comments. This can be anything, from, What does the story about X mean? to How do you translate trompe-l’œil, and what exactly is it? to Where did we last see Madame de Beaumont?

I’ll do my best to answer all the questions, but I’d like everyone else to provide answers as well!

I’ll get things started: Does anyone know if the Kubus, the tribe that Appenzzell . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: Surfaces

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manual-big-read-schedule/”>this week’s section, with some more fully fleshed thoughts to come later in the week, once we’ve all had a fair chance to get through to the end. We’ve already been talking a great deal about things and descriptions, so now it’s time to talk about surfaces. I’m thinking specifically in terms of Sherwood’s Tale, in which he purchases what he believes to be the Holy Grail but is in fact scammed by crooks [pp. 96 - 109]. It is one of those elaborate confidence scams where a person is shown one small piece of evidence after another to slowly build up trust in what is ultimately a big, unbelievable falsehood . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: Some Initial Thoughts and Some Questions

800px-Puzzle_Krypt-2

So now that we’ve finished up with Part I of Life A User’s Manual, I’m curious to know how people are getting along. You’ll no doubt have noticed that the form the book takes is very particular–there’s a lot of description (as I discussed in this post), and not a lot happens; all we really get are these brief stories and anecdotes about people and objects encountered in the apartment. Do people like this? Why do you think Perec has structured the book in this way? Another point of discussion–we’ve already had some various opinions on the value of knowing about the various constraints Perec embedded in this book. For my own part, I think knowing about at least a couple of the major ones is important. I view something like The Knight’s Tour as being as much a part of the book as Bartlebooth because this funny little constraint is very much conditioning how Perec tells this story. He can’t just jump from character to character as per his whim–he has to navigate over there via his knight’s leaps. By turning the form of his novel into a chessboard, he’s added an element of space to his composition in a way that few books ever will. This conditions they way the story can be told, which itself conditions which stories can be told. Similarly, I think Perec’s choice . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: Things

GarbageTruck

So now that we’ve had a chance to experience a bit of Life A User’s Manual, let’s talk about one of the most distinctive things about Perec’s prose in this book: the extraordinary tangibility of it. To explain what I mean, let’s go back to one of Perec’s very first books, titled simply Things. This is a great, small book about two young French professionals who have just begun making their way in life. The book is titled Things because that’s just what the two protagonists are obsessed with–things, namely chic consumer goods. Perec’s protagonists are in their late 20s, the age when one’s youthful aspirations for a romantic, bohemian life are beginning to seriously clash with one’s aspirations for a place of some status in society. To put it simply, they’re torn between a life of nothing and a life of things. Clearly, Perec was aware of the powerful force that could be exerted by consumer objects in a capitalistic society . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Welcome to the Life A User’s Manual Big Read

georges_perec

Okay everyone, the Life A User’s Manual Big Read starts today. Welcome! If you need a refresher on the schedule of reading, have a look here. Now then, first things first: everyone observe that there’s no colon in the title of this book. No, I’m not sure why either. Maybe we can figure it out. I don’t want to say too much about this week’s reading yet, so for today just a few words about how Perec set this book up. Famously . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life A User’s Manual Big Read Schedule

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In this post you’ll find the reading schedule for the 2011 Life A User’s Manual Big Read, plus a list of resources and books you may want to have a look at in conjunction with the read. The read will start on Sunday, March 13, one week after we launch the spring issue of The Quarterly Conversation. If you want to join in, this is the text we’ll be working with. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Spring 2011 Big Read: Life A Users Manual

We have chosen our Big Read for this spring, and it is Life A User’s Manual by Georges Perec. Thanks to everyone who voted. If you are going to be reading along with us, I recommend Godine’s corrected translation of the book (published in 2008), in which David Bellos updates his original 1987 translation. (For information as to the differences between the two, see my interview with Godine editor Susan Barba.) . . . continue reading, and add your comments