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

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.


  • [[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 […]

FSG’s About Face on the My Struggle Covers

Apparently the abomination is over: as Michael points out, the market has spoken, and it hates the original paperback covers for My Struggle, so FSG has gone with a change of design. Here’s how they compare.

Old (Lord have mercy!!):

New:

True, these new covers are boring as hell and reflect the InDesign skills of roughly 95% of current high school seniors, but, by God, I think at this point we’ll all gladly accept non-offensively dull over the carnival-madman-vomit aesthetic of the originals.

I admit, I’m sad in a way. I really wanted to see how that gigantic hand would look holding a big number 6. And there was an undeniable camaraderie to spotting one in a store and spontaneously bursting into laughter along with the dude who just happened to be standing next to you. Oh well.

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  1. Kafka Covers These apparently placed in the 50 Books/50 Covers design competition. Not sure how much I like these . . . what’s with the eye motif?...
  2. The Quotidian in My Struggle Interesting take here on the quotidian in My Struggle. I admit, this is an aspect of the book that gave me the most pause regarding...
  3. Face-Out Borders is shelving more books with the face out, leading to about 5 to 10 percent less books shelved total. Probably this will help sales,...
  4. More Penguin Classics Covers The Fantagraphics Blog has posted more Penguin Classics covers. You can also see them directly at Penguin. Hat tip to reader Chris for the link....
  5. U.S. Covers Vs. UK Covers Do U.S. bookcovers look better than their UK counterparts? A few case studies. I'm not terribly fond of the U.S. 2666 cover, but the UK...

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7 comments to FSG’s About Face on the My Struggle Covers

  • P.T. Smith

    Yeah, I’m mostly sad. I wanted to see how chaotic they got and you nailed the camaraderie aspect: maybe never before have I so consistently seen people utter a strong opinion and it be met with complete agreement. The cover also just fascinated me endlessly, a deeper and more confused and empty mystery than beat anything on Lost.

  • Mans

    I like the ugly ones better than the boring ones, but I guess I am in the minority. But I’ll defer to P.T. Smith as he is usually right about things.

    • P.T. Smith

      Mans! Good lord. I read your comment and wondered who the heck thought I’m usually right besides me and then saw it was you. I’m so glad you still lurk the good and safe corners of the internet and were there a way to say hey, shoot me an email without awkwardly tossing out my email address, I would do so.

      And yes, sort of replying to Michael S. below, I feel bad for the designer, nothing personal to them, because as someone recently who had to, after objection, sign off on a cover using a stock photo of bamboo for a book about social work in Asia, I have empathy.

      • PT: I think if you click on my name now, it has a link to my blog–you can contact me through that if you would like.

        And some on point content: While I don’t really like any of the covers that much, I like the size and weight of the FSG paperbacks. To the extent that a book-as-physical-object impacts my reading experience, the FSGs are the size and shape I like.

        They were also the only ones available to me when I bought Vol 1 on vacation.

  • Ed

    I love ugly covers, and am proud to own one of these FSG Knausgaards.

    They have their own aesthetic, their own weirdness…like the Vintage Contemporaries of the 1980s, they stand out.

    Weirdness is always better than bland safety.

  • I was hoping to see a comment beginning, “As the founder of the carnival-madman-vomit aesthetic, I strenuously object to…”, but so far nothing. Oh well.

  • The old cover looks like Lisa Frank by way of Terry Gilliam. I like it. The new one looks portentous/pretentious. Knausgaard looks like a smoking Jesus or at least a smoking Peter O’Toole.

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