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

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 […]

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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