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 […]

Arnold Schoenberg: Far Crazier Than I Expected

I’ve read some damning stuff about Thomas Mann (particularly this LRB piece by Colm Tóibín), so it was with interest that I picked up his letters this weekend. Granted, they’re selected, and, granted, Thomas Mann had a vested interest in crafting his public image, but they really show a very good side of him. He comes across as extremely modest for a man of his accomplishments (there’s the one where he goes on at length in an effort to dispel rumors of his encyclopedic knowledge engendered by his, well, encyclopedic novels), and he sounds very reasonable and . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks: My Final Thoughts

Just to get a little closure on this huge book, I wanted to take a minute and talk about how the whole thing struck me. Scott, I hope to hear your thoughts on the matter, as well.

First of all, the "Cultural Context" post was helpful, even if I read it after finishing Mann's novel. Mainly it illuminated what Mann was doing with the social aspect of his book, an aspect that I felt slightly let down by once I got into it. By opening Buddenbrooks with the lavish dinner scene, introducing all the leitmotifs with color . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks: A Little Cultural Context

Now that we've gotten acquainted with Buddenbrooks' major characters and their arcs, I thought it would be good to pull back a little bit and look at some of the social and historical forces that Buddenbrooks is playing out against.

The Buddenbrooks themselves are something of a bridge between two major components of society that co-existed in Austria-Hungary and the Germanic lands during the 19th century. On the one hand was the landed aristocracy, conservative and still ridiculously rich but in decline as the cities gained prominence; on the other hand was the business class, liberal and on . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks’ Contribution to the Ebook Debate

I've been reading and enjoying Ted Striphas's The Late Age of Print, and I intend to write more about it soon. For now, though, I'd like to pull this Heidegger quote that Striphas mentions while discussing language's progression from the mouth to the pen to the typewriter to the computer to the ________.

Mechanical writing deprives the hand of its rank in the realm of the written word and degrades the word to a means of communication. In addition, mechanical writing provides this "advantage," that is conceals the handwriting and thereby the character. The typewriter makes everyone look the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

On Mann and Music

This is a rich, rich subject that we should return to again, but I just wanted to respond briefly to John's remarks re: Hanno, Thomas Mann, and classical music. John writes:

Similarly, after reading Mann's beautiful rendering of Hanno's musical experiences in Part 8, I'm interested to learn more about the role of music in the writer's life. Scott, having enjoyed Doctor Faustus so much, perhaps you've read about Mann's musical background. Was he a musician himself, or was his understanding more scholarly? He seems to grasp the unspeakable aspects of musical communication with enough depth that I . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Faulkner and Music

One of the most intriguing things I've learned while reading (and reading about) Buddenbrooks is that it was supposedly Faulkner's favorite novel. (This is an unattributed statement in the book's Wikipedia entry, yes, although I've encountered the sentiment elsewhere.)

Granted, Lowe-Porter's translation of Buddenbrooks didn't appear until 1924, so I can't say if Faulkner read it before or during his work on The Sound and the Fury, but I'm willing to believe that's the case based on some similarities in themes and characterizations. In particular, the relationship between Tony and Tom in Mann's novel seems like an influence on . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks: Serious Inquiries and Bad Credit

Since we're all currently disgusted with smooth-talking bankers, bad loans, and the whole ethic of overlooking certain facts that we'd rather not know about, I thought it would be good to discuss how a very important bad loan in Buddenbrooks very closely mirrors our own subprime situation.

First a little stage-setting: you'll remember that Tony Buddenbrook, in a sudden burst of family loyalty, has decided to go ahead and marry the rather distasteful Herr Grünlich. Of course, she isn't only doing this for family: as the wife of a rich businessman, Tony will be able to live quite . . . continue reading, and add your comments

From Buddenbrooks to Mann’s Future

Sacha pulls a great quote in his recent post on Buddenbrooks. I agree with Sacha that it's a worthwhile quote for what it shows about the evolution of Tom Buddenbrook from a man who once bought in to the idea of a rational, accessible world to a man who approaches life with a philosophy that is nearly existential.

But there's another reason I like this quote. It tells us about Mann, the author. For multiple reasons, Buddenbrooks is commonly regarded as different from Mann's later works, which are not only different stylistically but also have a much more . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks: Why We Care

Scott asked a valuable question: Why should we care about these people?

He cited the passage on p. 154 regarding Tony's experience with the family history, which I agree is Mann's first explicit answer to the issue. We care because this family is convinced of its own standing and importance, and not in a self-important or ironic way. Scott's right that Tony's experience in this scene is touching and illuminating, for her and for us.

And this got me thinking about Buddenbrooks' structure. I believe Mann makes us care because, in the first third of the novel, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Buddenbrooks and Translation

I just wanted to briefly jump into the fray regarding the Buddenbrooks translation discussion. Sacha and John both seem to conclude that Mann in translation is necessarily diminished Mann:

Sacha: "As smoothly as Woods handles the speech of, say, Herr Permaneder, and as much as I understand that his character is supposed to be a parody of Bavarian culture, I wonder what nuances my lack of access to the German is denying me. . . . Questions like the ones my experience with Buddenbrooks are making me ask prompt the recognition that even the best translation loses something." . . . continue reading, and add your comments