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

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  • Padraic: Funny, I had no idea Phillip Roth grew up in the Midwest...
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  • Bernie: Whoa now, mind your Midwestern readers there...
  • Gs: There seems to me an important facet of fiction revealed in
  • David Long: This is a list I posted a few days ago: 25 REASONS TO THA
  • Padraic: I think Saramango gives Coetzee a pretty good run for most a

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.

  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

Wallace vs. The Program Era

Mark McGurl considers David Foster Wallace as a creature of the program era:

And, more importantly for my purposes here, isn’t his relation to institutions what makes Wallace, in literary historical terms, most interest-ing? For me, in any case, this relation is more interesting than his critique of American culture, which, while advanced with considerable verve, and unusually well attuned to the vicissitudes of ironic distance, amounts finally to a highly conventional morality tale about the ill effects of narcissism and TV. So, too, is it more interesting than the chaotically ambitious forms of his longer works, which . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Saer in NYRB

There’s a nice essay on Juan Jose Saer in the current issue of the New York Review of Books, centering on La Grande, Saer’s biggest, and last novel (and probably his best). Unfortunately, the essay is behind the paywall, so you have to subscribe if you want to read it. but, on the plus side, this will get Saer a lot of new readers.

There’s also Marcelo Ballvé’s excellent essay on Saer in the current issue of The Quarterly Conversation.

La Grande is very much about people coexisting in isolated, parallel worlds. Gutiérrez, in particular, . . . continue reading, and add your comments


But, fortunately, probably not as good as Kafka.

Take the example of Casimir Adamowitz-Kostrowicki, born in Paris in 1880. Like Kafka, Adamowitz-Kostrowicki read his life’s work only to his friends, instructing one of them to burn it should he never return from the war. Only, unlike Kafka, his masterpiece was actually torched in a small bonfire on the street when it was mistakenly assumed that he died on the front.

The Other Mitteleuropean

The New York Review covers the latest book from the one many prefer to Stefan Zweig.

Hitler was named Reich chancellor on January 30, 1933. The very same day, Joseph Roth boarded a train from Berlin to Paris, never again to set foot in Germany. This writer—a renowned columnist for the Frankfurter Zeitung, an acerbic observer of German cultural and political life, the newspaper’s star reporter from Paris, a roving correspondent sent variously to the south of France in 1925, the Soviet Union in 1926, Albania and the Balkans in 1927, and Italy and Poland in 1928, and . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

You really have to hand it to indie press people: leave it to us to collectively hyperventilate and continually apologize for a J Franz fave on the cover of a book.

But anyway, I can think of few better books to get whatever boost a Franzen fave gives than Nell Zink, whose debut novel (at 50 years of age) The Wallcreeper is truly something. I’m half convinced that Zink, who lives in Germany, is Helen DeWitt in disguise, or maybe just had a lot of drinks with DeWitt at some point.

The sentences that this woman writes . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Back to the Future

I’m not exactly sure why we need Jennifer Weiner to rehash the whole “blogs versus critics” thing.

Here’s an idea: if some random person on Amazon says something dumb about your book, you can ignore it. Chances are, most other people will find it as trivial and annoying as you do. And if you’re the author of a celebrity memoir: congrats, you’ve already won.

Still, I can feel Howard’s pain. Show me a writer who hasn’t felt savaged, misunderstood, unfairly attacked, or completely misread by an Amazon reviewer, and I’ll show you a writer whose books live in . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Sacred Tears

My contribution to Music & Literature Issue 5 is a long essay on Stig Saeterbakker that began in my reading of his essays. For this essay, I was given the really fortunate honor of reading a number of Saeterbakken’s essays (all published for the first time in English in this issue) before they were officially published.

“Sacred Tears,” which M&L has now made available on its website, was the first one that I read, and it’s amazing. The elegance and strangeness and power here . . . it still sticks in my mind. Saeterbakken knew just what . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Translating Modiano

Mark Polizzotti on translating Patrick Modiano. His translation of Suspended Sentences comes out next month from Yale University Press.

The Occupation has been described as the “black hole of French memory.” Modiano’s particular talent has been to extend that void, to expose the profound moral ambiguities it covers over and the responsibility for those ambiguities in the most mundane aspects of his characters’ daily lives. Similarly, the Nobel citation focused on “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the Occupation.” At the same time, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Beckett’s Letters, Part III

Another review for Volume 3 of Samuel Beckett’s Letters. The Independent.

The success of Waiting for Godot is still warm and he faces a world of admirers in new translators, writers, journalists (“the bastards”), actors and directors: “people, people, signatures, smiles, confusion of names”. These are the years when Harold Pinter first meets Beckett and Beckett first meets Buster Keaton, each to their heroes. Beckett marries his partner, Suzanne Deschevaux Dumesnil, and falls for his lifelong confidante to be, Barbara Bray.

The pull of two languages is mirrored by the pull of two private lives. Success has . . . continue reading, and add your comments

If You Don’t Know About Publishing . . .

Busy day today, so I don’t have the time to catalog all the absurdities here, but needless to say Matthew Yglesias should stick to industries he understands. And he might want to learn to write like a grown-up.

Here’s a little real talk about the book publishing industry — it adds almost no value, it is going to be wiped off the face of the earth soon, and writers and readers will be better off for it.

The fundamental uselessness of book publishers is why I thought it was dumb . . .

What is indisputably true is . . . continue reading, and add your comments