Your Face Tomorrow as one novel and counting Manana en la batalla piensa en mi, which I'm 2/3 through and must be the longest Spanish-language book I've ever read.) I've come to love the work of Javier Marias this year, but if I were to ding him for something it'd have to be that his style can be a little loose at times. Part of this is, I think, just a matter of differences of opinion--Marias likes that maximalist kind of prose where he lets his words stream on for pages and pages, and I prefer novels that pare back to a nice arid essentiality." />

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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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.


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  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
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  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

Favorite Reads of 2010: All Souls by Javier Marias

All my favorite reads of 2010 collected here.

You could actually put just about all of Marias’ books in this spot. (I’ve read 5 of them this year, counting Your Face Tomorrow as one novel and counting Manana en la batalla piensa en mi, which I’m 2/3 through and must be the longest Spanish-language book I’ve ever read.) I’ve come to love the work of Javier Marias this year, but if I were to ding him for something it’d have to be that his style can be a little loose at times. Part of this is, I think, just a matter of differences of opinion–Marias likes that maximalist kind of prose where he lets his words stream on for pages and pages, and I prefer novels that pare back to a nice arid essentiality.

All Souls stands out in my mind for being Marias’ minimalistic novel. Aside for some short stories and novellas, it’s the leanest, tightest work of Marias’ I read this year.

It also stands out for having the most successfully complex structure. Other books of Marias’ that I read tend to have a fairly straightforward structure, perhaps enlivened somewhat by lengthy digressions here and there, but All Souls actually makes structural jumble part of its artifice. It’s a form that Marias works quite well, though one it looks like he won’t be returning to any time soon (All Souls was an early book, and his recent ones have not been nearly so structurally complex).

But at any rate, Marias is definitely a major writer, one of a clear originality that asks you to set aside lesser concerns and grapple with his books on the highest level. If you haven’t tried him yet, do so next year!

All my favorite reads of 2010 collected here.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Favorite Reads of 2010: Correction by Thomas Bernhard Thomas Bernhard does a strange kind of realism. His books tend to be extremely intense character studies of 2 - 3 people, yet they are...
  2. Favorite Reads of 2010: The Literary Conference by Cesar Aira If I could be King for one year, what I'd do is call together 10 or 15 of the best Spanish-language translators I could find,...
  3. Favorite Reads of 2010: The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz The Golden Age really, really surprised me. I selected this book for my translated literature book club at local indie bookstore The Booksmith, pretty much...
  4. Favorite Reads of 2010: The Culture Industry by Theodor Adorno This is essentially Adorno's book-length definition and dissection of the culture industry—how capitalistic society creates and sells popular entertainment and lifestyles to pretty much every...
  5. Favorite Reads of 2010: Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, edited by Reza Aslan When was the last time you read an anthology cover to cover? What about a 700-page one? For me the last--and the first--was Tablet &...

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