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 sight unseen, and hoped for the best. Every single person in the club liked it, a-lot-a-lot. It was possibly the best discussion of a book we had all year. That's saying something, in particular since The Golden Age doesn't have anything resembling a plot for its first half; and then the second half only has a plot by virtue of a crazy fantasy story that the narrator relates as part of a book he recounts. It's not the easiest book to cozy up to, and yet it compelled me--I think all of us--from the very first page." />

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

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


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  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
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  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
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  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
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Favorite Reads of 2010: The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz

Here we go. For the month of December, I’m going to be talking about my favorite reads of the year. This first he first one. I’ll collect all the posts at this thread.

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 sight unseen, and hoped for the best. Every single person in the club liked it, a-lot-a-lot. It was possibly the best discussion of a book we had all year.

That’s saying something, in particular since The Golden Age doesn’t have anything resembling a plot for its first half; and then the second half only has a plot by virtue of a crazy fantasy story that the narrator relates as part of a book he recounts. It’s not the easiest book to cozy up to, and yet it compelled me–I think all of us–from the very first page.

The Golden Age has some incredible prose, an almost limitless imagination, and some of the most amazing images I read all year. The book is about a man who visits a far-away island and basically writes about the island and its extremely strange culture. The first half is something like an enthnological study of the islanders, who have walls made of water, rivers that flow through their home, a language made from stains, caves build into their homes from which they mine gems (wait till Ajvaz discusses their food).

Eventually the narrative becomes absorbed by the island’s one Book, which all of the islanders contribute to, sort of like a paper and pen Wikipedia. Its this continually collapsing story of intrigue between kings and queens, with each story pitfalling into another, even more incredible story within in.

The island culture that Ajvaz builds up around this idea is both brilliant in its conception and rigorous in its execution. We learn all about the islanders’ philosophy of property and time, their habits, their way of life, their economy . . . everything. And it all coheres in an immensely satisfying way. Eventually you come to see that the book is an exploration into what language is, how it works, what it is for, the gap between it and objects, as well as an exploration of who we are and what we are doing here.

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