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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  • Future LibraryFuture Library

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  • Juan Jose SaerJuan Jose Saer

    You all should really be reading Juan Jose Saer (if you're not already). His books have a very particular feel . . . I could... »
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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.


  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]
  • On Gottland by Mariusz Szczygieł September 15, 2014
    Gottland is not a novel, but that proves difficult to remember. The book, playfully subtitled Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia, is technically a work of reportage, and its author, Mariusz Szczygieł, one of Poland’s best-known journalists. Most of Gottland’s tales, however, seem better suited to Soviet science fiction—or even Russian absurdism— […]

Her Not All Her

Michael Orthofer has given the first of what I hope will be a good deal of English-language coverage to Cahier #18, Her Not All Her, Elfriede Jelinek’s chapbook on (and sampling) Robert Walser.

Her Not All Her is, as the subtitle has it, a piece on/with Robert Walser, as author Elfriede Jelinek presents a short, dense text that is both an homage to and inspired by the peculiar Swiss master. It is a prose-text that is a performance piece — it has frequently been staged over the past fifteen years; the German audio-version (the piece as monologue …) was recorded by Bruno Ganz — but defies simple categorization and also has both essayistic and poetic qualities. Jelinek uses many of Walser’s own words, but the voice in this text she has fashioned is distinctly her own; it is a portrait of the artists that reveals layers of selves, from the simple facts (and words) of Walser to how Jelinek has understood them to Jelinek’s own creative identity. Jelinek shapes Walser here, in word and description — but clearly Walser has also shaped Jelinek, and that too emerges in this text, which is also one of the internalization of influence.

Note that 2013 is shaping up to be an excellent year for Robert Walser ephemera, as New Directions is publishing A Little Ramble: In the Spirit of Robert Walser. You should click over just to see the audacious cover they’ve given the book (I love how, in the catalog, they caption it, “Yes, this is the cover.”). Here’s the description:

A Little Ramble: In the Spirit of Robert Walser is a project initiated by the gallerist Donald Young, who saw in Walser an exemplary figure through whom connections between art and literature could be discussed anew. He invited a group of artists to respond to Walser’s writing. A Little Ramble is a result of that collaboration.

The artists have chosen stories by Robert Walser as well as excerpts from Walks with Robert Walser, conversations with the writer recorded by his guardian Carl Seelig. Much of this material appears in English for the first time.Accompanying these pieces are over fifty color artworks created specifically for this project, a preface by Donald Young, and an afterword by Lynne Cooke.

50 Full color illustrations

Now, please, more translations of the hundreds of pages of Walser writings that sit in wait in German.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Jelinek on Walser Cahier 18 looks like it will be pretty damn awesome. Her Not All Her is a play about, from, and to the great Swiss writer...
  2. Saer on Walser Heather Clearly, who wrote an excellent essay on Argentine author Juan Jose Saer for the current Quarterly Conversation, delivers some choice quotes Saer made about...
  3. Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories The latest book in the Walser renaissance has just been published: Berlin Stories, translated by Susan Bernofsky, published by NYRB Classics. The NYRB blog offers...
  4. I Am Not Here To Write In the bio that comes with the press release for the new Robert Walser novel, The Tanners, I'm informed that Walser "stopped writing in...
  5. The Walk by Robert Walser Can’t write too much at the moment because it’s been a busy few days, but. I’ve read a lot of Walser. I thought I had...

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