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 […]

YFTS: The Perils of Dancing

So a few more comments about last week’s section, pp. 122 – 201. I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to page 194, which I think contains a rather pivotal moment. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

YFTS: And Now We Venture Into the Ladies' Room, and Into the Mind of a Vengeful God

I’m sure everyone was very tickled by the restroom scene–I know I was. In a very broad sort of way, this scene made the book feel very real to me in a way that all the talk of the Spanish Civil War, 9/11, Bill Clinton (yes, he was in there), government surveillance, James Bond, and all that other “real world” stuff just didn’t. The restroom felt so prosaic: if Marias was going to take Deza into a public restroom there’s nowhere he wouldn’t take him. It just opened the book’s world up for me in a way it hadn’t been previously. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

YFTS: What About the Bosses?

Daniel Hartley has a highly worthwhile post on vol 1 of Your Face Tomorrow. Therein he brings up an excellent point that, I must admit, I had ignored until he mentioned it . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Fingerprinting Everyone

It was at this time that they first brought in an official identity card, against our tradition and our preference. . . . But people weren’t used to carrying such a document and kept losing it, and were was such generalised hostility to it that, around 1951 or 1952, the card in question was suppressed. . . . According to Tupra, there is talk in government circles of imposing something similar, along with other inquisitorial measures, these mediocrities who rule over us in such a totalitarian spirit and who have more or less been given carte blanche to do so by the Twin Towers massacre. I hope they don’t get their way. . . . It’s insulting, an out-and-out mockery, what these pusillanimous, authoritarian fools want to do and impose on us in the name of security, that prehistoric pretext. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

YFTS: Favors, and The Return of the Socks (!)

For those of you who remain with me, we are now just beginning “Dance,” the first section of volume 2 of Javier Marias’ long book (schedule here). As was probably not a surprise to most people, we discover that the young woman following Deza into his apartment at the end of vol. 1 was in fact Perez Nuix, who has an intriguing request to make of him.

I was struck here at how Marias sets up this request

. . . continue reading, and add your comments

YFTS: Some Thoughts After Finishing the First Volume of Your Face Tomorrow

One starts Your Face Tomorrow filled with foreboding. How else to read the opening segment, a section that lets us know that everything we will read in this book has all been said and done, that it has all already happened to our protagonist, one Jacobo Deza (or Jacques, or Jaime, or . . . like Deza, so many characters in this book have multiple names). Moreover, the book begins with Deza telling us that, knowing what he knows now, he rues the act of opening one’s mouth. And then, were that not enough, the opening section ends . . . continue reading, and add your comments

YFTS: Magaret Jull Costa Responds

Here are the responses to the questions posed earlier this week to Margaret Jull Costa:

Neil: One of the many pleasures of reading the novel was how there seemed to be a constant translation taking place in Deza’s head between English and Spanish and back to English. How did translating a character who already is constantly translating and playing with both languages affect your work on the novel? Did it add another layer to your translation? How was it different translating this than other books that may not have been as concerned with the differences and respective peculiarities . . . continue reading, and add your comments

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

YFTS: I am Myself My Own Fever and Pain, and Dogs Have 18 Toes

Before we get started on this week’s discussion, a few housekeeping items.

First off, remember that on Monday we’ll be joined by Margaret Jull Costa, translator of Your Face Tomorrow. She’s graciously agreed to answer questions in the comments, so think up some good questions over the weekend and be ready with them on Monday. This week we read pp. 234 – 316, and next week we’re going to be finishing Vol 1. Congrats to everyone who has made it this far! I hope everyone is enjoying the book. I am. Remember, you can see the full schedule continue reading, and add your comments

YFTS: Margaret Jull Costa Now Joining Us

Legendary translator Margaret Jull Costa, who of course translated Your Face Tomorrow, as well as books by Jose Saramago, Fernando Pessoa, Eça de Queiroz, Bernardo Atxaga, and a ton more, has graciously agreed to join in on our discussion next week. Here’s how it’s going to work: I’ll have her answer a few questions about the book and the translation of it, and then everyone can pose some questions to her in the comments. So please make sure to drop by next week and get her insight on these books.

I also wanted to pull a few comments that . . . continue reading, and add your comments