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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  • Favorite Reads of 2014Favorite Reads of 2014

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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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    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 (5)

Okay, time to finish this stuff up.

24. The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker. The first thing to note is the construction of narrative voice and character, which is accomplished in a very unostentatious but extremely true to life manner. (Which is to say, I could see this guy, he was counterpointed into a 3-D being in my head, and his voice remained consistent throughout.) It was a sympathetic voice, though not without its flaws and idiosyncrasies. Then there is the unity of the metaphors: Baker deconstructs objects from everyday life, staplers, trains, shoelaces, popcorn–he brilliantly defamiliarizes them, yet he does this with a system of metaphors that remains consistent throughout the entire novel so that by the end it is like a series of voices in deep conversation. And lastly, the footnote on footnotes is brilliant.

25. S/Z by Roland Barthes. For this one I shall quote the translator’s introduction: “The work so joyously performed here is undertaken for the sake of the 93 divagations . . . identified by Roman numerals and printed in large type, amounting each to a page or two. These divagations, taken together, as they interrupt and are generated by the lexias of the analyzed text, constitute the most sustained yet pulverized meditation on reading I know in all of Western critical literature.” I can’t speak to the accuracy of that claim, but the passion behind it felt valid to me after I read S/Z.

26. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. In Illness as Metaphor (which, by the way, mentions The Magic Mountain more times than any other text) calls this book something along the lines of a warehouse for every metaphorical idea that has grown up around tuberculosis. That’s pretty accurate. The Magic Mountain was written just about when TB was losing potency both as a disease and as a living artistic construct, and fittingly Mann doesn’t so much make use of TB as a metaphor as deconstruct everything it had come to mean. The glorious thing about this book (and about Mann’s output in general) is how TB moves beyond its familiar context to become a metaphor for about four different, inter-related things simultaneously.

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 (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...
  3. Favorite Reads of the Year (4) 19. The Tanners by Robert Walser: You can read my review here. I’ll just say here that for most of this book I had a...
  4. 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...
  5. 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...

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2 comments to Favorite Reads of the Year (5)

  • PatD

    Scott: Excellent list (one of the few interesting ones I’ve seen this year). One more for your reading pleasure: Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo.

  • Drew

    Scott: Wasn’t sure where to place a note of gratitude to you but thanks for mentioning David Rhodes earlier in the year. I finished Rock Island Line recently. Along with the novels of Elena Ferrante, and a couple others, RIL was one of the best things I read all year.
    Driftless is on the TBR pile. Without your mention of him on this blog, I wouldn’t have found him. Thanks.

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