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.

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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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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.

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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.

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A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Interviews from Conversational Reading

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See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


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    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
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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 […]

Herta Who?

Michael really nails it:

As widely noted, the popular reaction (in the US, especially) to the announcement of who took the Nobel Prize in Literature is: ‘Herta who ?’ — just like last year it was … ‘J.M.G. who ?’ (?), etc. etc. A knee-jerk reaction that’s so predictable and widespread that the European media even take note (and make fun): a dpa report gets the headline «Herta who?» – US-Medien klagen über Entscheidung (‘US media complain about decision’) in Die Zeit — or, as De Morgen put it much more clearly in a Dutch translation of the same piece: Amerikaanse media: “Müller, who the f*** is Müller?”.

Surprisingly, the ‘Herta who ?’-attitude extends to outlets who really should know better: there are many examples, but surely among the most outrageous is The Washington Post, with Mary Jordan’s Author’s Nobel Stirs Shock-and-’Bah’

Like most parochial Americans, I had no clue who Herta Mueller was when the award was announced, but unlike many of my countrymen and -women I was at least able to fairly quickly pick up the fact that she’s considered by many as Germany’s leading author, or at least among them.

Of course, Americans have never heard of her, so why really gives a damn about an author who is one of the leading writers in the world’s fourth-largest economy?

But if I could tone down the irony for a moment, it seems like the Swedes have climbed out of their Jelinek-Pinter-Pamuk slump (too weird, too obvious, too mixed) really hit a groove. After reading some book by JMG Le Clezio, I think he’s a great pick, and from all (knowledgeable) reports, Mueller sounds like a great one too.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. The German Take on Herta Mueller This being the Internet and all, I was hoping to find a good German take on the Nobel Prize, and now I think I’ve done...
  2. Herta Mueller Nobel Prize Roundup Here's some coverage of that little award they gave yesterday. Herta Mueller at Amazon Mueller's Books Available in English The Land of Green Plums The...
  3. Nobel Prize to Herta Mueller I’m sure most of you know this by now. The Atlantic rounds up some responses from the parochial Americans. ...
  4. Culturally Insular This has to be the dumbest thing to come out of the Swedish Academy since Knut got all up in arms about giving Elfriede Jelinek...
  5. Nobel It’s October, which means that we’re all about to hear who wins the Booker. The Nobel Prize follows shortly, which means that we’ll soon be...

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3 comments to Herta Who?

  • I don’t know why everyone was so surprised: Mueller was 4/1 odds, behind only Amos Oz, at Ladbrokes. I took a look at her background a bit and thought her themes / topics too provincial and past-date to merit such an award. Clearly, my young American view of the world is out of alignment with the powers that be in Europe.
    Not to say that Mueller is a poor choice. I have no doubt that she’s a good writer, at all; it just seemed oddly insular when there are so many worthy authors in other parts of the world. Felt the same about Pinter. I’m not a proponent of the top US choices, either. Just seemed, I don’t know, very 1980s to choose an old Cold Warrior.

  • I don’t think it’s typical American pbias. The response from Europe, particularly Germany, is pretty lukewarm. No one seems really crazy about her, no one’s in love with her, no one seems to be rushing around screaming “Oh, this is great, you’ve GOT to read Herta Mueller.”
    http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/european-reaction-to-nobel-is-varied-and-sometimes-harsh/

  • Basically, I have to wonder if Herta Muller is scoffed in the U.S. because she isn’t American or because they’ve never heard of her. And if they’ve never heard of her, whose fault is that, Americans for not seeking out her books or publishers for not providing them? And why would publishers not provide these books if they’re deemed so good that much of Germany puts her on the bestseller lists, she’s won numerous awards, and now the Nobel folks decided to give her the nudge too?
    I’m sure there are many (many) American and worldwide writers who deserve this prize as well. I’m sure Muller does too. It’s just that there seem to be two arguments floating around, one about the anger in the U.S. over the alleged European-centric behavior, and the other revolving around the “Herta who” point.
    Hm. Too many questions. Never a good sign…

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