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.


  • 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 Hip Hop: J-Live

I’m using the Amazon clips widget to preview J-Live’s new album here. Click on the above box to listen to clips from any one of the album’s tracks.

J-Live has been one of my favorite MCs for going on 7 years now, and I constantly am surprised that more people don’t listen to his music. This guy is like your favorite unknown author . . . for years he’s been making music that’s better than, at least, 90% of all the hip hop out there, and yet the man can’t seem to get more than a little credit.

Bottom line: If you like hip hop, you will like J-Live. If you don’t like hip hop, listen to J-Live and you will like hip hop at least a little bit.

This new album is Live’s fourth full-length, and I’ll be surprised if many better hip hop albums are released this year. This is the kind of music that’s continually fresh and innovative; even when J’s just flexing on a battle track his lines are working on two or three levels. J-Live makes music the way hip hop is supposed to sound: what I mean by that is clever wordplay that gets beyond your typical punchline; introspective songs where he’s continually evolving his thoughts, not just talking about the same old stuff again and again; truly unique sounds, concepts; incredible mic skills.

I’ve had the new CD a few days now and given it about 10 complete listens. Here are the tracks that are striking me most at the moment:

3–The Upgrade–this song has a fantastic, upbeat beat, and you’ve got to love that J-Live got Pos from De La Soul to contribute a verse.

4–It Don’t Stop–now this beat is simply bananas. I love the cuts and scratches at the beginning and each time the hook comes in. If The Upgrade was the feel-good track to set things off, here’s J flexing.

6–The Last Third–taking us back to "Get the Third" from J’s first album, this is J-Live talking about relationships. You have to listen to hear exactly how J-Live rhymes it, but have a look at the rhyme scheme of the following lyrics to get an idea of what he can do with enjambment:

Second thoughts turned to second words / Took a second but I got the message / Took me a day and a second but I concurred / I prefer to be along then to not be / Preferred . I guess that is what happens to a dream deferred.

7–Ole–Maybe I’ve just been listening to too much flamenco music, but I really like the way this song sounds. The story-like narration of a crazy party is lots of fun.

10–The Zone–This track features Charli 2na of Jurassic 5, one of the few MCs that can rhyme on a track with J and come off looking like the more rhythmic rapper. (And this reminds me, we’re all still waiting for Charli’s solo album.)

12–Simmer Down–I love it when rappers take on an challenging beat. To be perfectly frank, anyone can rap over your simple two drums per four bars (and this drum scheme gets used way too often), but a beat like the one on this song separates, so to speak, the men from the boys. It’s nice to see how J navigates it, and the off-kilter drums give the song a unique feel.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Friday Hip Hop: J-Live Braggin’ Writes J-Live is one of the best, least-known MCs going these days. Listen to this, and if you’re convinced, get the rest of the album...
  2. Friday Hip Hop: Edgar Allen Floe Now this is what its all about–a rapper whose name is a literary reference. That’s nice. I’m a pretty big fan of Little Brother...
  3. Friday Hip Hop: No Hook by Jay-Z Now that he’s had as many number 1 albums as Elvis, people are finally beginning to recognize the kid of cultural force that Jay-Z...
  4. Friday Hip Hop: Nas — New York State of Mind This right here is the track I always hoped Nas would make another like. Not that he hasn’t made some nicecuts since this one,...
  5. Friday Hip Hop: Southernplayalisticcadiilacmuzik Here’s a classic for you all. ...

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