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

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.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

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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