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.


  • [[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 […]

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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