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.


  • [[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 […]

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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