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 Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Favorite Reads of the Year (3)

13. The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya: In my opinion, Castellanos Moya is one of the most interesting Latin American authors to emerge in English translation in the past few years. Legend has it that Castellanos Moya was one of three authors Francisco Goldman urged New Directions to translate (Bolano being one of the others, though I've forgotten the third). Senselessness was a great choice for a first translation in that I immediately wanted to read anything else written by its author. The She-Devil in the Mirror was #2, and in fact they make a great pairing. The two books have very similar concerns, but come at them in different, but mutually intelligible ways. We've covered Castellanos Moya quite thoroughly in The Quarterly Conversation, so for more I send you to our review of Senselessness, our interview with the author, and my essay on his first two translated novels.

14. Ghosts by Cesar Aira: The more I read Aira, the more certain I become that he is one of the great working Latin American authors. Ghosts reminded me of the playfulness and casual philosophicality of Calvino. For more, see my review in the Review of Contemporary Fiction.

15. The Loser by Thomas Bernhard: At points in this novel I would entirely lose track of what was being communicated and just focus in on the feel of the voice and the bumping cadence of the prose. You really need nothing more than that to love this book, but then there's the multi-layered narration that's taking the first-person voice in perhaps not-previously-seen directions. It's such an intricately crafted, devious novel that it makes me wonder if Barthes ever critiqued Bernhard. I would love to read that.

16. The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolano: You can read my review here. In particular, this book distinguished itself for the distinct pleasure it offers the re-reader, which I discussed here.

17. Vertigo by WG Sebald: So many writers want to construct narratives as they've been constructed for ages. Either that, or they confine themselves to making small tweaks on well-defined forms. I loved this book for the way it quietly set about establishing a narrative logic all its own, as if this was merely something that books did as a matter of course. Another way to say this is that Vertigo felt like one of the most unified, self-consistent works I read all year, despite ranging over: the Napoleonic Wars, Kafka, detective fiction, the Italian countryside, Sebald's personal history, the Holocaust. And it was as taut as any page-turner I read this year.

18. The Ruined Map by Kobo Abe: This book is like a magic trick: it starts from absolutely nothing–a missing person investigation with no clues, no leads, nothing–and proceeds to spin that out for 300 pages. The result is bizarre. The whole investigation could be entirely false, just the invention of the detective's imagination (after all, he has to do something, since he's getting paid). Or perhaps it does correspond to some external reality. Within this question, I think you find a powerful allegory, almost certainly about the futility of life in the modern world (because this is what concerned Abe), but also transferable to so many other things.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. 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,...
  2. 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...
  3. The She-Devil in the Mirror Pubbing in September It took me scarcely 24 hours to race through New Directions' forthcoming Horacio Castellanos Moya, The She-Devil in the Mirror (available September). I'm going...
  4. Horacio Castellanos Moya Fun I will now present to you many links regarding Horacio Castellanos Moya, whom you will all remember as the Salvadoran author of the recently translated...
  5. Ghosts by Cesar Aira in NYTBR, Eventually The Literary Saloon reports that the NYTBR is finally catching on about Cesar Aira. That's good for them. And while you wait for them to...

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2 comments to Favorite Reads of the Year (3)

  • Barthes almost certainly didn’t write about Bernhard. Der Untergeher was published a few years after Barthes’ death anyway and those before 1980 are not as light on their feet as those after i.e. The Loser, Old Masters and Cutting Timber (A.K.A. Woodcutters) and Extinction.

  • Anon

    I had the pleasure of reading two Abe novels this year: Woman in the Dunes, which I enjoyed on every level, and Kangaroo Notebook which was entertaining but with a symbology that I found elusive. However, the imagination alone present in both works makes Abe a reader I am interested in reading in 2010. How does The Ruined Map rank amidst the other Abe you have read, if any?

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