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.

  • 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 […]

10:04 by Ben Lerner

After reading many, many translations, I am attempting to catch up with developments in mainstream American prose; i.e., the “big names” in American fiction. The last book I read in this vein was The Flamethrowers, which I liked to a point.

Now up, Ben Lerner’s new novel 10:04.

I view this book as a very ambitious failure. If we are to believe the backstory presented in the book itself—that it grew out of a story published in The New Yorker on June 18, 2012—then it was written extremely quickly, maybe in as little as a year. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

Rebecca Solnit has a new essay collection publishing from Trinity University Press: The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness.

Kirkus offers an early review:

In her latest collection of previously published essays, Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me, 2014, etc.) explores troubled and troubling spaces and places that illuminate her concerns about community and power.

How, asks the author, do individuals express their sense of connection to one another when they respond to disasters, such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the BP oil spill, and the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan? How do communities come together for . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Lot of the World Famous Translator in Japan

I have to say, it’s perfect that Murakami does translation in the afternoon to relax after a morning of writing.

Murakami of course knows that he needs to be translated in order to be read widely. He is very conscious of the power of translation, being himself one of Japan’s most important translators of American literature. He has long collaborated with Motoyuki Shibata, a well-known professor of English literature at the University of Tokyo, who has his own flourishing career as a translator. Of course, both men are admired as great stylists in Japanese, and that attracts readers . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Debut Novel of the Year?

Nice piece on The Wallcreeper by Jonathon Sturgeon.

Also, before I get to the blockquote, how awful is it that currently the only Amazon review of this book is a one-star review by someone identifying as “Chris Roberts, God,” which includes the nonsensical line ” A blurb from a famous writer will not capitulate your book…” as well as the always-obnoxious “The author’s prose is not reader friendly…” Please, somebody do something to change that.

Anyway, onto Jonathon’s piece:

Not much is known about Nell Zink: this much is confirmed by the scant publicity materials and coverage . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

My review of Lila by Marilynne Robinson runs this weekend at the San Francisco Chronicle.

The genteel genre of the newspaper review doesn’t really permit me to say these sorts of things, so this is one of the things that a blog is for: READ MARILYNNE ROBINSON!!!!! Really. I am quite convinced that she is one of the great American thinkers of her generation. Read the novels (duh) and read the essays too. Taken together, they are a remarkable body of work, a deep and satisfying examination of the American project—spirituality, as we understand it, and identity, . . . continue reading, and add your comments


Ready to Burst sounds astonishing. John Taylor:

Besides its storytelling aspects, Ready to Burst is therefore a kind of manifesto for spiralism. But I would suggest that the spiralist narrative “form” of the novel is less original than the spiralist philosophical “contents.” In this latter respect, Frankétienne’s provocative ideas, inserted rather often into the multilayered narrative, can be contrasted to similar ones developed in essays written by the poet and novelist Édouard Glissant (1928-2011) and the novelist Patrick Chamoiseau (b. 1953), both from the island of Martinique. In Kaiama L. Glover’s own elucidating article, “Spiralisme in the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Reading Beckett’s Letters

John Banville on Volume 3:

These were the years of Beckett’s triumph and burgeoning worldwide fame as a dramatist, and he was kept busy fielding inquiries from producers, directors and actors, and even more busy trying to control, down to the last, tiniest detail, the manner in which the plays would be staged. This well-nigh obsessive quest for perfection, as he saw it, is admirable, but it serves to remind us of the fact that Beckett came late to the theatre, that he regarded fiction as his real work – he described the plays as footnotes to . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Talking About Books

Tim Parks has an interesting enough new posting at the NYR Blog, but I think he’s missing the point a bit. His argument is that what societies “get” out of books is conversation.

What I’m asking is, what’s in it for society as a whole, or at least for that part of society that reads novels?

Conversation. A shared subject of discussion. Something complex for minds to meet around. This is particularly the case when we’re talking to people we don’t know well, people we meet, as it were, socially. This is particularly the case when we’re talking . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Deeper than Consciousness

Fascinating interview with Simon Critchley. If you haven’t heard me say it before, read his books.

The other night I was reading a piece on Michael Jackson, which quoted him as having said, “Deep inside I feel that this world we live in is really a big, huge, monumental symphonic orchestra. I believe that in its primordial form, all of creation is sound and that it’s not just random sound, that it’s music.” You seem to fight against this romantic conception of the world and of art. You write, “Music like Bowie’s is not a way of somehow . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Last Lover at Music & Literature

I’m definitely overdue for some Can Xue.

The best descriptor for Can Xue’s latest novel, The Last Lover, is that it is unlike, well, anything else. The Beijing-based author calls her fiction “soul literature.” It probably sounds audacious; it’s more audacious than it sounds. Nor does she shy away from what the term implies about the stakes of the numerous short stories and several novels she has published since the 1980s. Her “stereoscopic stories” are not just one more postmodernist innovation in narrative; the cognitive adjustment they require from readers, she says in a 2010 interview, is nothing . . . continue reading, and add your comments