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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  • The Sense of an EndingThe Sense of an Ending

    I can't recall where I first heard about Frank Kermode's The Sense of an Ending, but I'm glad I finally picked up my copy off... »
  • On Norman Rush’s GreatnessOn Norman Rush’s Greatness

    Interesting essay at The Point on Subtle Bodies, the latest Norman Rush novel. I get where Charles Finch is coming from... »
  • The BillThe Bill

    Nice review here of Laszlo Krasznahorkai's The Bill, which has been published in a stand-alone chapbook edition by Sylph... »
  • Laidlaw by William McIlvanneyLaidlaw by William McIlvanney

    I've been hearing good things about Laidlaw by William McIlvanney, and I know that Europa is pushing this one hard. It's a... »
  • I RememberI Remember

    Georges Perec's I Remember is publishing soon in an English translation for the first time ever. 3:AM Magazine offers a review... »
  • Why Amazon Sold BooksWhy Amazon Sold Books

    Good to remember. Bezos decided to break away from Shaw to start a prototype, but he “concluded that a true everything... »
  • Knausgaard Reading GroupKnausgaard Reading Group

    On July 23 I'm going to be leading a discussion of My Struggle Vol I at Diesel Bookstore in Oakland. I think the idea is to do... »
  • It Just Keeps GoingIt Just Keeps Going

    A Naked Singularity is now doing well in the UK. Overall a pretty interesting article, although it's lame to pigeonhole the... »
  • Knausgaard on BookwormKnausgaard on Bookworm

    Remember Knausgaard? Norwegian, tall, good looking, wrote this really really long book about himself. About 3 weeks ago he was... »
  • Formalism, Video Games, and LiteratureFormalism, Video Games, and Literature

    Excellent essay by David Auerbach. Literature has reason to be embarrassed next to music. Music was quite forwardlooking... »

You Say

  • P.: An illiterate set of allusions to two Stevens poems which th
  • Gareth: I take a low view of a lot of what Amazon is doing right now
  • l: Bookworm link doesn't work.
  • Michael: Oh wow. Reminds me of Martin Amis' the Information, that hil
  • Rohan Maitzen: Yeah, when I read these things all I can think of to say is
  • Bill: Actually, The Counselor is not a mess if you look at it as a
  • Patrick O'Donnell: What a load of nonsense. At least a nice list of 2013 "prec

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 […]

Futility by William Gerhardie

I’ve been hearing great things about Futility by William Gerhardie, freshly resurrected from publishing oblivion by Melville House. We’ll be having an review in an upcoming TQC; until then, Michael Dirda in The Washington Post.

William Gerhardie’s “Futility” must stand with Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” and Hubert Crackan­thorpe’s “Wreckage” high among English fiction’s best single-word book titles. Written while its author was still an undergraduate at Oxford and first published in 1922, “Futility” is precisely what the subtitle announces: “A Novel on Russian Themes.” Its overall tone is distinctly Chekhovian, a mixture of comedy and pathos, suffused with low-key irony. When the American edition appeared, it bore a preface by no less an eminence than Edith Wharton, praising “the laughter, the tears, the strong beat of life in it.”

That description sounds off-puttingly Edwardian and old-fashioned, yet Gerhardie’s novel and its successors — especially “The Polyglots” and “Jazz and Jasper” (called “Eva’s Apples” in the United States before gaining its definitive title, “Doom”) — won a chorus of praise from Arnold Bennett, H.G. Wells, Katherine Mansfield, Evelyn Waugh (“I have talent, but he has genius”), Graham Greene and many others. . . .

Gerhardie fans will be pleased to know that Melville House has The Polyglots planned for January 2013.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Yukio Mishima — William Vollmann After reading Vollmann’s The Royal Family, and being extremely impressed, I decided to check out some of his literary influences, one of which is Japanese...
  2. William Gass Gets into the Long Essay This is very cool. My only critique would be that they restricted it to the iPad: So it comes as rather a surprise to learn...
  3. William Gass Wow, an interview with William Gass in The Believer. ...
  4. William Kentridge and Sergio Chejfec Very interesting essay in berfrois on the artist William Kentridge (you can see some of his work in this book). I bring it up because...
  5. William James on Publishers William James, writing to the publisher Henry Holt, has a few choice words: Publishers are demons, there’s no doubt about it. How silly it is...

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