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 […]

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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