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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com
  • 20 Books at 3820 Books at 38

    I'm surprised to learn Andres Newman is so young. Also, great overview of his books in English. Andrés Neuman is... »
  • The Future ModianoThe Future Modiano

    The Complete Review has the details of the future Englishing of our most recent Nobel laureate. And also, sales figures. For... »
  • Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38

    Issue 38 right here. or TOC after the jump. Features Readings, Fragments,... »
  • On KafkaOn Kafka

    Rivka Galchen on the new Kafka bio by Reiner Stach. I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for... »
  • Me on ModianoMe on Modiano

    My review of Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano. The most focused of the book’s three diffuse novellas is... »
  • Elena Ferrante InterviewedElena Ferrante Interviewed

    At the NY TImes. I'm currently reading Book 1. Q. You insist on anonymity and yet are developing a cult following,... »
  • Infinite FictionsInfinite Fictions

    Buy David Winters's book.... »
  • Tarr After the HorseTarr After the Horse

    At BOMB: A couple of months after that, in February 2011, Béla Tarr presented the world premiere of The Turin Horse at... »
  • Bolaño: A BiographyBolaño: A Biography

    This is a pretty fair assessment of Bolaño: A Biography. Denied access to papers in the Bolaño estate, the Argentine... »
  • Literary AdvocatesLiterary Advocates

    Very honored to be among the esteemed list of "Literary Advocates" named by Entropy magazine for 2014. The list of... »

You Say

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

Shop though these links = Support this site


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.


  • [[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 […]

DFW vs BEE

Kinda curious here if anyone who reads this blog will actually stand up for Bret Easton Ellis as a better writer than David Foster Wallace. My understanding of Ellis is that he wrote one good book (American Psycho) and a bunch of stuff that helped define a scene but that probably won’t last. But, then again, I don’t know Ellis’ work that well.

When he gets going like this, and he does often, it’s tempting to dismiss Ellis as only a provocateur or a troll with an unusually high brow (and profile). Indeed, he’s obsessed with a class of filter-less provocateurs that he praises as “post-Empire”—celebrities like Charlie Sheen, John Mayer, and Eminem. And Ellis has attracted controversy several times himself. In 2010 he suggested that women are inherently ill-equipped for directing movies. Just last month he declared that Matt Bomer couldn’t play the title role in a film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey because he’s too gay. Hours after J.D. Salinger died, he tweeted, “Yeah!! Thank God he’s finally dead. I’ve been waiting for this day for-fucking-ever. Party tonight!!!”

But there’s something older than trolling going on here. In fact, this literary beef is more than two decades old, and Ellis’s weren’t the first shots fired. DFW had similarly harsh words—if less ad hominem—for Ellis all the way back in his earliest published essay, from 1988. In “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young,” Wallace criticized Ellis’s subcategory of novelists (he called them the “Catatonics”) for their “naïve pretension.” Wallace’s argument, characteristically, defies easy summary, but in short he didn’t think they could turn TV and other popular entertainment into something profound “simply by inverting [their] values.”

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Six DFW-Related Books in 2012 The Howling Fantods lists 6 DFW-related books that it claims will publish this year. I’ve got 2 of them logged on my Interesting New Books...
  2. DFW 50th Birthday Notes Yesterday would have been David Foster Wallace’s 50th birthday. Some interesting resources from around the web: Who Was David Foster Wallace? — The Quarterly Conversation’s DFW...
  3. The DFW Character in The Marriage Plot An interesting post over at Slate puts some context on the supposed David Foster Wallace character in Jeffrey Eugenides' new novel, The Marriage Plot. Eugenides...
  4. DFW Interview The NYR Blog has just run a 2006 interview between David Foster Wallace and Ostap Karmodi. A lot of the answers on DFW's side sound...
  5. The DFW-Eminem Connection Granted, there may be more depth here than what’s presented, but this sounds like a pretty spurious connection to me: Lately, I’ve been in an...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

8 comments to DFW vs BEE

  • Jake

    I don’t really think BEE is superior to DFW but that Slate article is contributing and enabling BEE’s obvious asshole provocateur tactics by unloading a lot of psychologizing horse dung on this whole “BEE vs. DFW” thing which is like the literary equivalent of Kayne West vs. 50 Cent. A superficial, media-driven dispute between the two writers that we don’t even know exists or existed. I wish Forrest Wickman had actually talked to BEE about his shit-talking instead.

  • SirJack

    I’ve never read BEE, but I honestly don’t think I have to to know that DFW is superior.

  • W.W.

    I read a bunch of Ellis when I was younger, and while his prose can be sharp it’s almost always shallow. Wallace’s statements nailed him to the wall; I had turned against Ellis years before I found out about Wallace, and his statements confirmed, articulated, and expanded upon how I had felt. On the other hand, Wallace at his worst–in, say, some of the Brief Interviews–uses irony in a purely destructive way which recalls his criticisms of Ellis. His worst writing is a little lower in quality than Ellis’ best, in other words.

    But while I don’t agree wholeheartedly with anything Ellis has said, a germ of it makes sense: take, for example, how the moralizing of Wallace can be outright nauseating: e.g. a character as contrived as Mario or Leonard Steyk presented as moral hero; or Wallace’s sophistry and rationalization around his practical God; or the entirety of This is Water, which I agree with in general but let’s be honest: it’s nothing new, and those who worship him for it seem purblind.

  • j.s.

    Apples to oranges. Wait, what, AMERICAN PSYCHO is a good book in what universe? Still, THE RULES OF ATTRACTION has more ethnographic accuracy about New England private college life than any other book i know expect maybe Donna Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY and she was Ellis’ friend and classmate at Bennington.

  • CDA

    Cleary Ellis is trying to get some attention for himself, and it seems to have worked. I don’t care for his fiction and stopped reading him after The Rules of Attraction–and yet he has a point about Wallace being overrated. I admire some of DFW’s work, particularly the essays, and a few of the stories like “Forever Overhead”, “Suicide as a Sort of Present,” and “Incarnations of Burned Children”, but his status as “Greatest Writer of His Generation” seems mostly unearned and frankly a bit ridiculous.

  • Angus

    I chaired a seminar which had a paper each on BEE and DFW. Conclusion: Discussion of BEE is less worthwhile than discussion of DFW.

  • Sawn

    This year’s Spring/Summer issue of Dutch fashion magazine Fantastic Man featured an intersting oral history of late 80′s New York menswear designer Bill Robinson who died of AIDS related complications in 1993 at age 45. It is an interesting little biography of one of the lost generation of gay creators. Presented in the article as proof to the part this forgotten designer played in developing the look of the 80′s the article quotes a paragraph from American Psycho:

    “I debate between two outfits. One is a wool crepe suit by Bill Robinson I bought at Saks with this cotton jacquard shirt from Charivari and an Armani tie. Or a wool and cashmere sport coat with blue plaid, a cotton shirt and pleated wool trousers by Alexander Julian, with a polka-dot silk tie by Bill Bass. The Julian might be a little too warm for May but if Patricia’s wearing this outfit by Karl Lagerfeld that I think she’s going to, then maybe I will go with the Julian, because it would go well with her suit. The shoes are crocodile loafers by A. Testoni.”

    I’ve only ever read Less Than Zero by Ellis – sometime as a teenager in the late 80′s. I can’t remember anything about it. I remember more clearly the music video for the Bangles version of Hazy Shade of Winter from the soundtrack to the film version starring Robert Downey Jr. McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City is more memorable a book from that era, and likely more worth re-reading than Ellis.
    But, what struck me most when I read this one paragraph from American Psycho in this article a couple months ago is how completely vapid and obvious Ellis’ writing is. He wants to show how shallow his character is and so does so with a list of names he probably just pulled from an issue of W or something he grabbed of a news stand that day. It made good documentation for the biography of the designer because it was reportage, not fiction or litertature. I can’t imagine making my way through an entire book as boring as that paragraph.
    Meanwhile, in a fashion spread titled “Phonies” in June’s Vice (their 2012 fiction issue) that takes inspiration from characters from great works of fiction: who resides beside the likes of Holden Caulfied, Captain Ahab, Lady MacBeth, Jay Gatsby, Lolita and Ignatius J. Reilly but one Michael Pemulis.
    So, Ellis tries to use popular culture to critique society, yet it is popular culture which ultimately defines over time who and what is a great artitic creation.

  • ramblingman

    oblivion (imo) > infinite jest > bret’s works >>>>>> brief interviews and the articles and the other DFW novel

    both are valuable writers IMO.

    there are way better writers than both being talked about on this blog every single other post too.

    the american/british literary scene and readership habits is goofy, insular, sad, provincial. a dumb little boxing arena where bret feels he should throw some punches at the overrated bandanna guy.

    DFW is goofily overrated and there’s something irritating about how easily he charms people and works to charm people of average intelligence. how hard he works to try and establish intellectual ‘standing’, with sophomoric pharmacology and mathematics. how hard everyone falls for it, to the point where they no longer engage with the work as full persons. (it’s reminiscent of Nabokov love but at least he enchanted people with beautiful effects, not just trying to show off with what is basically very introductory understandings of most things.)

    the research in DFW’s writing is not as well incorporated as, say, in Pynchon’s information-infused worlds. Gravity’s Rainbow is full of math and science because they are integrally bound up with the work, with the metaphysics.

    also, Pynchon has a much better understanding of his information, and he actually has NEW ideas for them, he moves forward knowledge.

    DFW is halfway there, but the other half is — again — clumsy attempts to establish the writer’s authority as a smart guy. That is at least half, often more, of the attempted function. I say clumsy, but it works for his fans I guess. “wow, so smart” is their response. but if you can see through it, it just honestly comes off as pretty stupid and desperate.

    however, he certainly was serious and passionate and ended up doing a lot of good work, especially when he got carried away …

    Bret’s not so bad, but worse I think.

    The film American Psycho is a lot better than the novel, which I don’t think is some moral failure as DFW suggests, just because he doesn’t solve the character’s derangement. That’s a really stupid problem to have with it.

    The actual issue with the novel American Psycho is that it’s monotonous, which I suppose DFW was getting at too, IIRC. Because it’s the same shi forever — it’s a novel of an Idea, the idea is this character and the tenuous reality formed in the interface with his mind, and you get the Idea — and then it just goes on. it’s not a failure of moral development, it’s a failure of intellectual span.

    failure of fucking imagination. which delimits his work in the novel and in his corpus generally.

    i think they both kind of had that problem somewhat honestly.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>