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 […]

On Norman Rush’s Greatness

Interesting essay at The Point on Subtle Bodies, the latest Norman Rush novel.

I get where Charles Finch is coming from (Mortals was a bit of a slog in places), and I agree with what he’s saying—Rush’s observations are awesome—but I have to put in one big caveat. Mating was as riveting as they come.

On those first and third levels of the art of the novel, Rush is only an equivocal and intermittent master. Passages of his books, particularly Mortals, are beautifully plotted, but none of them could be called compulsive from first . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Bill

Nice review here of Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s The Bill, which has been published in a stand-alone chapbook edition by Sylph Editions.

Apart from being much shorter than most of his other works (including the under-40 page Animalinside [2010], another Sylph Editions production, with artwork by Max Neumann), The Bill appears lighter in mood than his other works. It addresses the creation of art works by the sixteenth-century Venetian painter Palma Vecchio (c. 1480-1528; he is also known as Iacopo Negretti), four of which are reproduced in part, with wry humour and suspicion, in one long sentence that, complete . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Laidlaw by William McIlvanney

I’ve been hearing good things about Laidlaw by William McIlvanney, and I know that Europa is pushing this one hard. It’s a re-issue of the first volume (two and three forthcoming, I assume) of what is supposedly the greatest Scottish crime trilogy ever written. Not too much coverage Stateside, bu thte UK liked it.

Jack Laidlaw himself is a romanticised figure, like most of the best fictional policemen. Of a philosophic turn of mind — he keeps ‘Kierkegaard, Camus and Unamuno’ in a locked drawer of his desk, ‘like caches of alcohol’ — he believes in doubt. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

I Remember

Georges Perec’s I Remember is publishing soon in an English translation for the first time ever. 3:AM Magazine offers a review and comes up with an opportunity for you to participate in the book:

Perec’s sense of disappearing human experience is wrapped up both in the socio-cultural sum, and the fleeting, individual, personal human interactions that punctuate the quotidian drift. Shared jokes, schoolyard games, a meal prepared by an aunt. His texts predicate on, he writes, the “overlooked commonplace” that is always in the process of evaporating; the very things that reassure us we are living.

This . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Why Amazon Sold Books

Good to remember.

Bezos decided to break away from Shaw to start a prototype, but he “concluded that a true everything store would be impractical—at least at the beginning.” He therefore analyzed twenty possible product categories for his new company, including clothes, software, music, and office supplies. According to the principles of mathematics, physics, and finance Bezos applied, books were the best choice. They were “pure commodities” in the sense that a book in one store was exactly the same as a book in another. They were easy to pack and hard to damage. And “there were three . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Knausgaard Reading Group

On July 23 I’m going to be leading a discussion of My Struggle Vol I at Diesel Bookstore in Oakland. I think the idea is to do Vols 2 & 3 down the line. If you’re in the area, drop by and enjoy the Knausgaardia.

It Just Keeps Going

A Naked Singularity is now doing well in the UK. Overall a pretty interesting article, although it’s lame to pigeonhole the book as a blistering attack on the US criminal justice system.

In 2013 University of Chicago published De la Pava’s follow-up, the fragmentary and experimental Personae, much of which is made up of the imaginative writings of a character who has died alone, aged 111, in his Manhattan flat. Last year publisher Christopher MacLehose (who introduced the English-speaking world to Stieg Larsson) also brought out a British edition of A Naked Singularity following a tip from . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Knausgaard on Bookworm

Remember Knausgaard? Norwegian, tall, good looking, wrote this really really long book about himself. About 3 weeks ago he was everywhere.

Anyway, if you recall him and wonder where he’s been since then, well, now he’s on Bookworm with Michael Silverblatt.

Formalism, Video Games, and Literature

Excellent essay by David Auerbach.

Literature has reason to be embarrassed next to music. Music was quite forwardlooking when it came to technology. Composers like George Antheil had been working with electronics from at least the 1920s – possibly earlier if some of his eccentric mechanical monstrosities count. Today composers and performers regularly use laptops with signal-processing software more powerful than anything studio professionals could use twenty years ago. Landmarks such as Xenakis’ La Legende d’Eer, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Kontakte and Telemusik, Pauline Oliveros’ Bye Bye Butterfly, James Tenney’s Collage #1 (“Blue Suede”), and the oeuvres of Pierre Schaeffer, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Toibin on Marias and Munoz Molina

In the NYRB.

Marías likes murder. While he has translated Sterne, Faulkner, and Nabokov into Spanish and learned a great deal from them on the way, he has also translated Stevenson, Kipling, and Conrad. Thus the yarn—the adventure story told at length that holds the audience—belongs to him as much as any set of playful narrative voices. At the heart of the trilogy Your Face Tomorrow is a spy story. His novel A Heart So White, which, at one level, is a murder story, may be his best work to date because it offers an ingenious balance between . . . continue reading, and add your comments