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

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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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

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.

You Might Also Like:

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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