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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.

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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You Say

  • Max: Henry, it seems a little odd to say that Proust and Kafka an
  • Mike: I agree with much of this discussion, though I'm not sure wh
  • S: This outpouring has been pretty wide-spread indeed. To be ho
  • Will: Salman rushdie is a microscopic crapule on the asshole of th
  • Henry: I think the fireworks may come from the fact that these auth
  • Paul: Vanessa Place's 'La Medusa' seems like an American authored
  • Lance: I agree with you about the state of American fiction and I b

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 […]

YFTS: Margaret Jull Costa Interview

MJC: The long sentence that is so characteristic of Javier’s style first occurs in The Man of Feeling. The sentences and the novels have grown longer and longer since then, mainly, I suspect, because his novels have moved away from plot (although there always is a plot) towards the dissection of ideas, feelings, words, motivations. His sentences have the shape of a thought, full of buts and perhapses and then agains. The style in Your Face Tomorrow is the latest stage in that development–less plot and more thought. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Genius of What Is Possible In English

Fascinating conversation between Adam Kirsch and Ilya Kaminsky on what translation can and can’t do. I’ll grant that Kirsch is well-informed, and his concerns are fair enough, but this response of Kaminsky’s really gets at the inherent error in focusing to exclusivity on the source text w/r/t translation:

But what interests me is not only the genius of the poet translated but also the genius of what is possible in English as it bends to accommodate or digest various new forms. By translating, we learn how the limits of our minds can be stretched to absorb the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The European Fiction Anthologies

This winter we'll be seeing two European lit anthologies from two of the best publishers of lit-in-translation.

First there's The Wall In My Head, covering Eastern European fiction and nonfiction and published by Open Letter in conjunction with Words Without Borders. From Open Letter's catalog:

To mark the twentieth anniversary of this momentous collapse, and to shed some light on how it came to pass, Words without Borders presents The Wall in My Head, an exciting anthology that features fiction, essays, images, and original documents to pick up where most popular accounts of the Cold War . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Total (Translation) Information Awareness

Over at Three Percent, Chad has just posted a list of recommended lit-in-translation that have thus far come out of the evaluation process for this year's Best Translated Book Award. It's a rather robust list, and looking of it I'm struck by the amount of books we've managed to cover so far.

Basically, between the great enthusiasm of the judges and the low number of translations published each year in the U.S., I think by the time we're done with this year's award we'll have accounted for virtually every work of literature in translation published this year. I . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Between the Meanings of Consciousness and Reality

As part of the new issue of Words Without Borders, translator Michael Emmerich has a very interesting essay on translation.

His essay is concerned with the difficulty of defining the word translation, and how this complicates the work of the translator: unlike some words (Emmerich uses the example dog), translation is fraught with differences in contexts and values that complicate a translator's job.

Emmerich puts it like this:

In order for "translation" to have any meaning at all, it must be translatable into other languages; but the moment it is translated, it is swept . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Rushdie: Bolano Proves We Should Translate More

Opening the PEN World Voices Festival, Salman Rushdie has declared that the example of Roberto Bolano proves that there are tons of great writers still unknown in English. So American publishers, get going:

El autor anglo-indio Salman Rushdie destacó hoy el reconocimiento en EU del fallecido escritor chileno Roberto Bolaño y animó al mercado editorial estadounidense a tomar nota e impulsar más traducciones al inglés de obras de éxito.

"El éxito tardío de Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) con 2666 es una muestra de lo poco que se traduce en Estados Unidos", dijo el célebre autor de Los versos . . . 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

Grossman Discusses Translating Don Quixote

Translator Edith Grossman recently discussed Don Quixote’s singular place in the Spanish canon:

It was Grossman’s ambition to honor the significance of Don Quixote as a prose model for Spanish literature. "Though we have Shakespeare and the Bible for poetry," she said, "there’s really no equivalent for prose in our language. In Spanish literature, everyone is informed by Cervantes." The English template she chose as a point of entry was the novel of the 19th Century, in part the work of Jane Austen. "I hope Austen doesn’t mind," she said. Grossman has read Don Quixote many times . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Value of Reading Translated Fiction

Aviya Kushner’s essay on translated literature in the U.S. is an interesting mix of provocation, insight, and misrepresentation. Her main argument is more or less that:

It’s not that Americans aren’t interested in the world at all. It’s just that we seem to want someone else to do the ­heavy ­lifting required to make a cultural connection. As the ­Peruvian-­born writ­er Daniel Alarcón ob­serves, Americans would rather read stories by an American about Peru than a Peruvian writer translated into English. “There’s a certain curiosity about the world that’s not matched by a willingness to do the work,” . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Zone Translator Interviewed

Translator Charlotte Mandell will see her translation of French giga-novel The Kindly Ones published here in March (and already garnering review attention); her translation of 500-page, single-sentence French novel Zone is forthcoming from Open Letter.

Quarterly Conversation contributor Lauren Elkin provides an interview with Mandell on her blog, wherein we learn:

With Zone, the challenge is to reproduce the style of the narrator’s stream-of-consciousness:  the novel is written around one long sentence, and I need to keep the reader’s undivided attention in English in the same way that the French does – it’s a . . . continue reading, and add your comments