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

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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.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    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
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • 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
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • 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
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • 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 […]

How Lit is YOUR City?

In what is destined to become the New Year’s Weekend topic of conversation, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater presents the 2004 edition of their study, America’s Most Literate Cities. (thanks to GalleyCat for the link)

Some of the ranks come off as a little funny (for instance, is Los Angeles really the 68th most literate city in the country?), but there’s lots of interesting information here. It ranks the top periodical publishers by the number of magazines with circulation over 2,500 and the number of journals over 500 published in a city. I don’t see the actual data (i.e. how many puslishers), but its still interesting to know that apparently there’s a lot of publishing going on in Washington, D.C., Boston, Atlanta, and San Francisco.

Also, it’s interesting to see which cities have the most-used libraries and the lowest library-citizen ratios.

The item that people may find the most interesting of all, though, is the all-powerful bookstores section. It ranks cities based on retail and used/rare bookstores (SF is on top, followed by Cincinnati and Seattle), although it would be interesting to know what’s the breakdown between new and used/rare.

Overall, it’s a pretty worthwhile study, but I wish UWW would put up their raw data. There’s a methodology .pdf which shows how they acquired the data so I suppose if you really wanted to know you could take some time and crunch out your own results, but it would be nice if the info was browsable. Also, it would have been nice to see some comparisons between the 2003 and 2004 studies on the website.

Apparently, however, the 2003 study is long gone. The links in web pages referencing the ’03 study are now either dead or go to the ’04 study. However, I was able to locate the top ten from ’03, so we can make some comparisons based on that. (’04 rank in parentheses)

1. Minneapolis (1)
2. Seattle (2)
3. Denver (7)
4. Atlanta (15)
5. San Francisco (10)
6. Pittsburgh (3)
7. Washington, D.C. (6)
8. Louisville, KY (17)
9. Portland, OR (9)
10. Cincinnati (5)

And as a bonus, here’s the results of a new internet user survey.

The average Internet user in the United States spends three hours a day online, with much of that time devoted to work and more than half of it to communications, according to a survey conducted by a group of political scientists.

The survey found that use of the Internet has displaced television watching and a range of other activities. . . . According to the study, an hour of time spent using the Internet reduces face-to-face contact with friends, co-workers and family by 23.5 minutes, lowers the amount of time spent watching television by 10 minutes and shortens sleep by 8.5 minutes.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Philip Roth on Serious Readers This Nerve.com interview of Philip Roth has some interesting stuff (does the man ever give a bad interview?). Here’s one piece: I think the core...
  2. Lit Journals The NYTBR has an article on literary journals. It’s pretty  much "gee whiz, look at all this QUIRKY stuff going on UNDER THE RADAR." Really,...
  3. A New Lit Manifesto Maud Newton reports on a new literary manifesto by Tom Robbins in the new Harpers. It’s not available online, but Maud has graciously typed out...

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4 comments to How Lit is YOUR City?

  • America’s Most Literate Cities

    From the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, which doesn’t mean they can get around including its own Mother city of Madison in the mix (Iowa City’s somewhat lower population just doesn’t make the cut), this survey of the most literate

  • This is interesting, but the results (at the risk of sounding snobbish) reveal the study’s flaws.
    How well does your city cultivate bookish behavior, says the study. Sure. My guess is the study is skewed so that Madison would be at the top. (no offense Madisonians, but NYC is the most bookish city in the country) In numbers, sometimes, there’s no accounting for quality.
    NYC is 49? We have some of the top universities, bookstores that any city in this country or the world would be envious of (Gotham, strand, etc.) We have booksellers lining the streets, literally! I’m sure those don’t get counted in the study, but those little touristy bookstores with absolutely nothing worth reading probably abound in some of those cities.
    Newspapers here are primarily distributed at kiosks and bodegas rather than subscription, but it’s hard to tell exactly what they count. But correct me if I’m wrong, NYC is the center of the publishing world.
    Too bad they didn’t count readings or literary events. Every major author speaks here. We have one of the major Bloomsday celebrations in the world. You can go to a reading here on any given day of the week. Literature (and art) permeates the culture here. Indeed, it can be quite intimidating. Incidentally, my site’s stat counter shows that NYC is the largest source of hits on my lit blog and I imagine that it’s that way for many.
    The problem of course, is socio-economic. What we have here in a magnitude that other cities don’t have is an enormous amount of poor people and that, sadly, is a prohibitive situation where being literate is not the top concern. Being literate is a luxury that the rest of us enjoy.
    Oh, Scott, I’m just venting. I could go on, but there’s no point. Thanks for posting this.
    p.s. Interestingly, I once met someone who moved to Boulder CO for the very reason that they had so many bookstores relative to the population.

  • Scott

    Hey Bud,
    There’s no doubt that some of the factors the study used are skewed toward cities with smaller populations. I wondered myself is something like libraries per 10,000 population was really that much more significant than per, say 100,000 (I mean, is 10,000 the useful limit of a good library? seems a little low).
    It’s also true that a city like New York is going to be penalized heavily for socio-economic factors.
    I think the study is interesting for the information it does reveal, but there’s definitely much information it doesn’t.

  • The Monday Morning Books Blogging Post

    This Week: Charles Bukowski, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Sontag, and MoreA Rebel Artist Driving a BMW A review of yet another collection of poems by Charles Bukowski. [sfgate.com] He Grew an Afro, and Then All Hell Broke Loose A preview of

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