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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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  • Paul: Vanessa Place's 'La Medusa' seems like an American authored
  • Lance: I agree with you about the state of American fiction and I b

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 […]

Friday Catalogs: Dalkey Archive Press

Were I stranded for a couple months with nothing but Dalkey’s spring ’08 lineup, I don’t think I’d mind. There’s really a lot of very-intriguing sounding stuff here. These are my favorites from this strong season.

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First-off, Dalkey is happily giving me more of two of my favorite non-American authors. First is Jean-Philippe Toussaint, whose short comic novel Television, which reads kind of like a book Jim Jarmusch would have written, made a wonderful impression on me when Dalkey published it a couple years back. Now they are publishing Monsieur (June, trans. John Lambert), more of Toussaint’s trademark style of having nothing really happen, but making it all deadpan hilarious and somehow meaningful.

After Toussaint I am looking forward to Estonian Mati Unt, author of the previously translated (by Dalkey) surrealist Things in the Night. (Read my review here.) Now they bring us Diary of a Blood Donor (May, trans. Ants Eert), which is being billed as "a postmodern tale of vampires and a mysterious trip to Leningrad."

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Probably the best-known Portuguese author in the U.S., Antonio Lobo Atunes, sees his book Knowledge of Hell published in English in March (trans. Clifford E. Landers). Apparently, the "hell" here refers to the narrator’s job, as this is a book narrated by a psychologist who hates psychology and who is driving back to work from a vacation. The book mixes Portugal’s colonial past with Angola with elements of the surreal and, of course, thoughts on modern-day psychology.

Last fall I was impressed by, if not wholly taken with, Place-names by French New Novelist Jean Ricardou. This spring Dalkey is publishing a book that sounds somewhat similar in its construction, as well as in its playfulness and willingness to break down our concept of a novel. Hotel Crystal (May, Oliver Rolin, trans. Jane Kuntz) is a manuscript scribbled on bits of hotel stationary and postcards, ostensibly assembled by an impartial editor, consisting of descriptions of hotel rooms. Fear not, as the text soon bends toward shadowy networks, thuggery, and spy spoofs.

Makbara (July, Juan Goytisolo, trans. Helen Lane) is not only the name of a novel but also, says the Dalkey catalog, Arab for the place in cemeteries where people carry on relations. That’s about all the catalog tells us about this book, but that’s enough. (It also bills Goytisolo at "Spain’s greatest living writer.")

There is some good criticism to be had in this catalog. Dalkey publishes yet another book from Viktor Shklovsky (to add to their 6 others), Literature and Cinematography (June, trans. Irina Masinovsky). It’s a short (75 pages) manifesto about the function of arts and, obviously, literature’s relationship to film. Originally published in 1923.

Then there is Fiction Now, (August, Warren Motte) an overview of contemporary French novelists.

And then we have Intersections (July), a collection of 17 essays on the works of Richard Powers. Appropriately enough for Powers, the essays have a wide range (photography, systems theory, ecocriticism, and neuroscience are all mentioned). Powers himself contributes an essay, as well as does Sven Birkerts.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. RTW/Interview with Chad Post of the Dalkey Archive Press By now most of us are aware of May’s Reading the World program. For those who haven’t yet heard: 100 bookstores, 5 publishers x 4...
  2. Friday Catalogs: Columbia University Press Columbia University is publishing a book on Sebald that sounds worth a look. Called W.G. Sebald: Image, Archive, Modernity, it looks at Sebald’s narratives...
  3. Dalkey Archive on Lost I’m not much for the "toaster with pictures," but for those of you who enjoy the TV drama Lost, you’ll want to have the TiVo...
  4. Friday Catalogs: New Directions Published in hardcover last year but still worth mentioning is the paperback release of Roberto Bolaño’s Amulet. (May) If you haven’t read it yet,...
  5. Friday Catalogs: Soft Skull/Counterpoint Here’s what caught my attention as I browsed Soft Skull and Counterpoint’s Winter 2008 catalog. Lydia Millett fans will be happy to know that she...

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