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 […]

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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More from Conversational Reading:

  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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