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

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Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

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See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

Definitely Maybe

Definitely Maybe by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (who also wrote the book that became Tarkovsky’s Stalker) sounds seriously fascinating.

Something strange is going on, and Malianov learns he isn’t the first one who has found himself thwarted just when he’s on the verge of a tremendous scientific breakthrough. There’s his friend, the biologist Weingarten, who suddenly found himself with Nobel Prize-worthy results, as well as Zakhar Gubar, working: “on some gigantic, very important project, something to do with energetics”. Both come to Malianov and recount how they were maneuvered off-course — not in the same way as Malianov, but in both cases quite outlandishly.

What it amounts to is that there appear to be forces that ensure that mankind is prevented from making certain scientific-technological advances — possibly because of their destructive potential. I.e. mankind is being saved from itself, as it were. The identity of these conspiring forces isn’t entirely clear. An alien supercivilization ? A ‘Union of Nine’, a group of: “secretive wise men” who have watched over progress since ancient times ?

And also this:

Known as science fiction authors, the speculative parts of the Strugatsky brothers’ fiction tends towards the philosophical . This isn’t a futuristic novel, or one set in an alien world. Definitely Maybe is entirely earth- and present-bound, with much of the action — and heavy drinking — hardly out of the ordinary for any fictional depiction of 1970s Soviet life. Yet an air of mystery hangs over the entire story — beginning with the presentation of the narrative itself: subtitled: A Manuscript Discovered Under Strange Circumstances, it is presented as a series of excerpts. The story is a continuous one — but parts are also missing, as the ellipses at the start of each new excerpt (and the end of several of them, too) reminds readers. The narrative also shifts from the third person to the first person, Malianov telling the final bits of his story himself.

Also see Paul Di Filippo’s review.

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  1. First-Person From Dan Green’s review of Skunk: A Love Story: One of the reasons I liked this book is precisely its skillful use of first-person narration....
  2. Richard Powers Formal patterning has always been a predominant feature of Richard Powers’s fiction. Powers doesn’t so much tell stories (although his fiction has plenty of narrative...
  3. Dramatic tension is the real curse of the novel I’m not sure I’d entirely agree with this. One could probably say that the novels of Adolfo Bioy Casares (or at least the two that...
  4. Et Tu James Wood? Jeanette Winterson on narrative in literature: I think the Anglo-American tradition is much more linear than the European tradition. If you think about writers like...
  5. You, or the Invention of Memory Impressively, the LAT runs a review of the new book from experimental writer Jonathan Baumbach. "You" is the 11th novel by Jonathan Baumbach, who...

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1 comment to Definitely Maybe

  • This sounds definitely wonderful. Thanks for pointing it out. Roadside Picnic (the book that became Stalker) is worth a read as it is much different from Tarkovsky’s version while still deepening one’s appreciation of the film.

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