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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

You Say

  • Neil G: Think of how less juvenile Marilynne Robinson's writing woul
  • Padraic: Funny, I had no idea Phillip Roth grew up in the Midwest...
  • Ryan Ries: Yeah, what exactly does the Midwestern thing mean? It appea
  • Bernie: Whoa now, mind your Midwestern readers there...
  • Gs: There seems to me an important facet of fiction revealed in
  • David Long: This is a list I posted a few days ago: 25 REASONS TO THA
  • Padraic: I think Saramango gives Coetzee a pretty good run for most a

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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • 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 […]

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.

You Might Also Like:

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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