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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.

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

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 […]

Favorite Reads of the Year (2)

7. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann – You don't really need me to tell you that Buddenbrooks is a great book. For those new to Mann, it's the most approachable of his major novels that I've read. It's also the closest to good old 19th-century realism. A highly sardonic, unforgiving tale of a family that just isn't going to make it. Read it with someone you love.

8. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy – I read (or re-read) all of McCarthy this year, but I'm not going to subject anyone to tedious recommendations of most of his works, though I would recommend almost all of them. (Those who still want the tedious dissections of each book can read my lengthy essay on McCarthy.)

I would like to draw particular attention to Suttree, though, which must be the most bizarre and baroque novel McCarthy has written. It's McCarthy channeling Joyce, a true verbal tour de force from an author who is pretty much known for doing that in every book he writes. It's amazing, and if you only know McCarthy from Blood Meridian onward, then you'll be very surprised.

9. The Late Age of Print by Ted Striphas – I reviewed this book here, interviewed the author here, and have discussed it frequently on this blog. I think I've said what I can in this book's favor.

10. The Cardboard Universe by Christopher Miller – See my review in the Review of Contemporary Fiction.

11. Desert by JMG Le Clezio – See my review at The Critical Flame. I'd just like to mention here my great enthusiasm for this book. It's one of the best postcolonial fictions I've read in a long while, and it's also one of the best books of landscape I've ever read. The key to writing well on each lies in the same thing: getting beyond the notions you come in with.

12. Pornografia by Witold Gombrowicz – It didn't take me long to fall in love with the voice of this novel. I eat right up this kind of acidly ironic psychologizing (which, I think, is what appeals to me in Bernhard). Beyond the voice–which, I repeat, is outstanding–this book reminds me of a good play in terms of its taut structure. It more or less occurs in three "acts," and the psychological riddles brought into play are both clearly stated and irresolvably complex.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Favorite Reads of the Year (1) I'm determined to run down my favorite reads of 2009 on this blog, but I think it might take a few posts. So this is...
  2. From Buddenbrooks to Mann’s Future Sacha pulls a great quote in his recent post on Buddenbrooks. I agree with Sacha that it's a worthwhile quote for what it shows about...
  3. This Month, We’ll Be Reading Buddenbrooks Last spring I was completely blown away by Thomas Mann's novel Doctor Faustus. On the spot I vowed to read more Mann, and then didn't...
  4. What’s Your Favorite Translation Ever? For a while now I've felt that the Critical Mass blog is a missed opportunity. You've got an organization full of able book critics, many...
  5. Buddenbrooks: Which Translation? Katy at Love German Books asks which translation of Buddenbrooks we're reading. I don't know which Sacha and John are reading, so maybe they'll chime...

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4 comments to Favorite Reads of the Year (2)

  • Yes yes yes to Suttree… which seems to have gotten lost after Blood Meridian, but thought he was more channeling Faulkner than Joyce (quibble quibble)… just count how many times he uses the word ‘terrific’… and how. The amazing opening pages–a Faulknerian hymn to the Mississippi as it passes under the bridges and past the bottoms of Memphis–all the organ stops full out. McCarthy’s been gradually reigning it in every books since. Was The Road really written by the same man?

  • Pornagraphia… have you read Ferdydurke yet?

  • True, Faulkner is a definite debt. (In many circles McCarthy is seen as the Southern heir to Faulkner in his first four novels.)
    The stylistic evolution from Suttree to The Road is indeed incredible. Its something that I try to account for in my long essay.

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