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.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Chejfec, Aira in Asymptote

New issue of Asymptote, with some intriguing pieces by Cesar Aira and Sergio Chejfec.

In Aira’s piece, the Argentine pays praise to his literary father, Osvando Lamborghini:

The first publication of Osvaldo Lamborghini (Buenos Aires 1940 – Barcelona 1985), shortly after his thirtieth birthday, was El fiord; it appeared in 1969, but had been written several years before. It was a thin book, and for a long time it was sold in a single bookstore in Buenos Aires via the discreet method of asking for it from the salesperson. Though it was never republished, it traveled over a long road and fulfilled the mission of great books: that of inaugurating a myth.

It proposed, and continues to propose, something extraordinarily new. It anticipated the whole of the political literature of the seventies, but transcended it, rendering it useless. It incorporated the entirety of the Argentine literary tradition, but gave it a new and very distinct nuance. It seemed to bridge two puerilities: one that combined the childish half-language of the gauchesco—the literature of the gauchos—and the officious, cardboard character of our grand men of letters, and another composed of perpetually naïve revolutionary outbursts. Soon we discovered that even Borges, very much in the English vein, had limited himself to literature “for young people.” The only antecedents worth mentioning were Arlt and Gombrowicz. But unlike them, Osvaldo did not take up the problem of immaturity; he seemed to have been born adult. Secret, but not ignored (nobody could ignore him), the author knew glory without ever having the least glimmer of fame. From the very beginning, he was read like a master.

In 1973, his second book appeared, Sebregondi retrocede, a novel that had originally been a book of poems . . .

And Chejfec, well, he does what he always does:

Our first protagonist is Julio Cortázar. He’s been in Buenos Aires for a while now. Two years before, he was living in Bolívar, from where, in a letter, he wrote, “life here makes me picture a man getting crushed by a steam roller.” Within eight months he’ll be teaching in Chivilcoy; he’ll miss Bolívar and will feel like an exile. But for now, in the capital, he’s unsure where his life is taking him—this is what stands out from his correspondence. It’s January, 1939, but he hasn’t left on vacation (though he doesn’t specify what it is that stops him). Actually, a vacation wouldn’t interest him. Cortázar wants another life, an abrupt and unexpected transformation: what he’d like is to literally hop on board a cargo ship for Mexico. His anxiety comes through in the next letter, written that same month, in which he regrets postponing the trip, at least for now: there aren’t any ships in Buenos Aires bound for Mexico. The nearest port besides is Valparaíso, so he puts off the trip for the following year and commits to saving money. Cortázar admires Mexico, wants to see the Aztec pyramids and hear the local music.

January in Buenos Aires, we can picture this. The drawn-out swelter in the neighborhoods, a constant summer barely suppressed on the streets sheltered by plantain trees. It’s 1939. (In a few months, while Cortázar is exiled in Chivilcoy, an indifferent Gombrowicz will come ashore. Six years before, Novo, the Mexican, disembarked from another ship. We can picture this too, since everyone knows that the city is an extension of the river.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Excerpt of The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira Why not go read the new Cesar Aira novel, The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira? BOMB has the first chapter. One day at dawn, Dr....
  2. Cesar Aira in NYRB Since 1975, the Argentine writer César Aira has published about seventy novels—it is difficult to arrive at an accurate count, and the number continues to...
  3. Cesar Aira in The Nation Missed this very long, in-depth essay on Aira when it came out in April. Well worth your time. In December 1972, the year after his...
  4. Blinding Excerpt at Asymptote Blinding by Mircea Cartarescu, which I mentioned a couple of months ago, has just been published and you can now read an excerpt in Asymptote....
  5. The New Issue of Asymptote Some great stuff therein, including this review by Ian Dreiblatt: Against this backdrop, there is cause for celebration in NYRB/POETS’ recent publication of An Invitation...

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