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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 […]

The Importance of a Committed Publisher

I don’t know for a fact that William Faulkner wouldn’t have been dumped after one, or maybe two, poorly selling novels, but it sure does seem like this sort of thing is much, much, much more likely in today’s publishing climate than that which predominated in the ’30s and ’40s.

At any rate, committed publishers who respect an author’s work enough not to politely request they dumb it down for a larger audience, and who know how to package that work so that it can be read by a large audience, are a thing that’s always needed.

The . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Most Hilariously Bad One-Sentence Summary of Ulysses Ever

Courtesy of the good people at Vintage.

This account of several lower class citizens of Dublin describes their activities and tells what some of them were thinking one day in 1904

Thanks to John Lingan for the catch.

As de Man Goes

Interesting piece in the LARB overviewing the madness that followed the publication of Evelyn Barish’s The Double Life of Paul de Man.

Barish’s bill of indictments is long, detailed, sometimes overwrought, sometimes startling. But it also seems oddly beside the point. Her demystification has a tenuous relation to de Man’s actual critical work, which Barish claims not to really understand — which is an excuse our students might give but which few of us (from them, at least) would accept. The book, in any event, ends in 1960, before de Man’s most important work, so the extension . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Just Stop

I reviewed David Lipsky’s book about his conversations with David Foster Wallace during the Infinite Jest tour for the LA Times, and I gave it a very meh review, because it was only occasionally insightful or interesting. Although, I will say in Lipsky’s favor that I get the sense that he would have ended the project if Wallace’s survivors and literary estate had asked him to.

And in addition to that, Lipsky did at least have the respect to present the conversations without morphing them into some dramatization of someone who may or may not resemble David . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Where the Unbearable Lightness Came From

Just learned that in the fall Open Letter Books will be doing a very cool sounding book in honor of the great translator, translation-mentor, and translation-advocate Michael Henry Heim: The Man Between: The Life and Legacy of Michael Henry Heim.

Words Without Borders extracts an essay by Sean Cotter about Heim’s legendary translation of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I didn’t know this, but originally the title was controversial, as it was rather far from Kundera’s Czech. And, as Cotter explains, it cleared quite a path for itself once it got into the world . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Country Where Knausgaard Failed

Last week, CR-reader Donato wrote in on this blog to let me know that, despite My Struggle author Karl Ove Knausgaard’s stratospheric levels of fame throughout much of Europe (and now, increasingly, the U.S.), there was one country where his books have failed: Italy. In fact, Knausgaard’s Italian publisher quit after just two volumes of La mia lotta.

I’m intrigued by the whole Knausgaard phenomenon, so I was immediately compelled: just why did Knausgaard’s books fail in an Italian context? So, I sent Donate a few questions, which he graciously answered. Note: Donato isn’t a part of Italy’s . . . continue reading, and add your comments

RIP Garcia Marquez Twitter Roundup

These days, social media seems to be the way I most often hear about breaking news. But as much as a truism as that’s become for me, I really can’t recall having seen such a diverse and sizable group of people on the same page about an event as when Gabriel Garcia Marquez died yesterday. A sampling of the outpouring on Twitter following a death . . .

Where the Truly Audacious Work Lies

So I took the opportunity in my review of Blinding to editorialize a tiny bit about the state of American fiction. My thesis: if you want epic ambition, look overseas.

I don’t think it’s controversial at all to say that in the past decade or so, the great majority of the real shoot-for-the-moon, thrilling novels published in English have appeared in translation. Things life Freedom and The Goldfinch may pack in a lot of pages, but in terms of style, theme, and structure, they’re extremely tame. They’re page-turners that are mean to be plowed through, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Notes on Conceptualisms

Nice to see that Notes on Conceptualisms has been translated into Spanish, and is attracting some serious attention in that language.

Depending on who you are, that title is either going to really excites you or scare the shit out of you. If you’re part of the latter group, though, there’s no reason for it. The book mostly consists of aphoristic statements about art and literature, all of which are interesting in and of themselves, and even more so when read in order. Yes, as the title suggests, it’s mostly about conceptual art, but in a way . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Working with Chejfec

Sergio Chejfec’s two main English-language translators, interviewed at Asymptote:

Let’s get back to the translating itself. You both have been very fortunate in that you live in the same city as your writers, which isn’t the case for most translators. What kind of collaboration do you have with Chejfec?

Carson: It was important to know Sergio personally and get a sense that he was invested in the project. He’s fascinated by what the translator is doing—it resembles, particularly in its uncertainties and ambiguities, the thought process of his narrator. I found Sergio to be very patient and generous . . . continue reading, and add your comments