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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.

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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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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 Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

Clarice Lispector Coverage–Where’s the Beef?

I understand that Lorrie Moore's article in the NY Review is ostensibly covering a biography, but nonetheless I see six novels by Lispector below the title and two serious works of criticism about Lispector below those, and thus I develop certain expectations. That is, expectations for some textual and/or aesthetic analysis of Lispector's novels. (This is the New York Review, after all.) But that is in very short supply in this article.

I have to say, I'm a little disappointed. And I don't mean this to be just a criticism of Moore. For some reason people have actually been talking about Clarice Lispector because of this biography. It seems that reviewers have gone out of their way to enthuse about great she is, and how under-appreciated she is in the U.S. That's nice and all, but damned if anyone has shown very much interest in engaging her books in these reviews. And thus I develop the sneaking suspicion that some of these people giving off the impression that they have read Lispector haven't. (Shocking, I know)

Completely by coincidence (I didn't know the biography was in the works when the essay was assigned) we've just published an essay on Lispector that does consider one of her works to a significant degree. So, if you find yourself in my position, give that a shot.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Dwight Garner on Clarice Lispector If I was Benjamin Moser, I’d kinda be feeling all like “I wrote a biography of Clarice Lispector and the Times gave it to Dwight...
  2. New Lispector Bio Chad mentions a new biography of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. One of the fall books that I’m really looking forward to is Benjamin Moser’s...
  3. Bolano’s Major and Minor Novels I usually try not to quibble with small details in otherwise coherent book reviews, but I've seen this more than once, and it deserves to...
  4. Fall Issue of The Quarterly Conversation We’ve just published the 17th issue of The Quarterly Conversation. The TOC is below. If you appreciate what we do and are in a position...
  5. Photography Criticism This is a nice essay on photography criticism. The great exception to all this is photography criticism. There, you will hear precious little talk of...

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3 comments to Clarice Lispector Coverage–Where’s the Beef?

  • I, too, (when I suggested and offered to try to do a essay on Clarice Lispector for The Quarterly Conversation months ago and Scott graciously accepted my proposal,) wasn’t aware of the recent biography. I am embarassed to admit so. I think I was more dismayed by Dwight Garner’s sardonic, flippant take on Lispector in the New York Times, though. Garner clearly never read her work but was mocking Lispector’s seriousness in ways that truly offended me, citing instances based her private psychology which I believe to be false. That kind of snide remarking and belitting of a writer without even considering her body of work pushes all my buttons and is really troubling. One would hope rather dismiss this wonderful biography The New York Times reviewer would support and applaud it for bringing an important and neglected writer to public awareness. And done so with humility, not ridicule.
    By way of suggestion and alternative, Philip Graham wrote a remarkably responsible and astute review of Mosley’s biography in THE NEW LEADER. I hope readers will find it. Phil also wrote me when this essay came out to tell me about his review of the biography which he thought very, very highly of. Phil’s recent articles in THE BELIEVER were about his year in Portugal and he has a really impressive take on Lispector who wrote in Portugese.
    Sorry if I sound so touchy, but it hurts when there is a writer of Lispector’s importance who gets such treatment in the “literary press”. I did, though, understand again why her work is difficult for people in the States, in Brazil she’s a national heroine, and she is lauded and celebrated all around the world, too.

  • Muzzy

    I can’t remember where I first heard about Lispector, probably read something online, mayby you, Snr. Esposito. So on August 12 I ordered The Passion According to G.H. from Amazon. To date, they still haven’t shipped it. In fact, they say they’re not sure exactly when they will ship it. I’m hoping this isn’t just incompetence on Amazon’s part.
    Which suggests to me that there’s enough demand out there for her books to sell out. Which tells me SOMEONE out there is reading Lispector.

  • Muzzy, I hope you receive it and enjoy her. There’s a wonderful one-line book store called BookDepository.com, run by Mark Thwaite where I’m sure, too, you can find her work just in case amazon doesn’t come through. It started in the UK but recently started up a branch in the States, (also they ship for free!)
    I think, too, there are more people here that do want to read her, and her books are hard to get hold of and find.

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