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

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.


  • 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 Thomas Bernhard Works

The Brooklyn Rail has a great essay by Douglas Glover about Thomas Bernhard’s novel The Loser (it is serialized from Attack of the Copula Spiders and Other Essays on Writing, published by Biblioasis.

The essay makes a fine rundown of the various rhetorical devices that makes Bernhard Bernhard. So if you ever wonder how he manages to attain those typically Bernhardian effects, look here. For instance:

This grid of receding narrators and repeating character traits and plot motifs supplies a matrix over which the author drapes his phantasmagoric riot of rhetorical substructures—repetition, antithesis, rant, digression, word play–all of which add drama, interest, and comedy to his text. It can’t be emphasized enough how exuberant, ludic and, yes, obsessive Bernhard’s style is.

One very common device, virtually a marker for Bernhardian prose, I call grammatical yoking. Grammatical yoking refers to grammatical structures meant to yoke two entities in a relationship of contrast or identity–e.g. just as, whereas, like/unlike, on the contrary, and some forms of subordination and psychological parallelism. In The Loser, there are multiple examples of each type mainly because much of the novel’s text is concerned with establishing similarities and differences between the main characters. Bernhard never leaves a character alone in a sentence, is always contrasting, differentiating, refining. These yoking devices are a tool for elaboration (form creating content)–they seem to come automatically, even compulsively, to the author’s pen–as well as a source of drama and conflict at the level of sentences.

[whereas] When it got cold, as Franz said, he would have his sister heat his room, whereas she wasn’t allowed to heat her room.

[unlike] Wertheimer always set about his life with false assumptions, I said to myself, unlike Glenn who always set about his existence with the right assumptions.

[in contrast] She herself had never had enough money and never enough time and hadn’t even been unhappy once, in contrast to those she called refined gentlemen, who always had enough money and enough time and constantly talked about their unhappiness.

[subordination by phrase] Wertheimer was the most passionate cemetery lover I have ever known, even more passionate than me, I thought.

[subordination by clause] Wertheimer hated Catholicism, which his sister, as I also know, had completely fallen prey to in the last years.

[parallelism] I never reproached myself for having money, I thought, Wertheimer constantly reproached himself for it,…

It’s important to recognize that Bernhard’s texts are dense with this kind of rhetorical elaboration, that it is possible to analyze much of the text as a string or assemblage of such devices, such that a limited amount of plot material is made to vibrate and echo from sentence to sentence and page to page. Here is a short list of some of the other more spectacular devices Bernhard deploys. I give a minimal set of examples for each—you have to imagine the riot.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Thomas Bernhard Makes An Acceptance Speech You can probably guess some of what happens in Meine Preise, Thomas Bernhard's "accounts of receiving nine of the literary prizes and honours he was...
  2. New Thomas Bernhard Via This Space, I learn: German publishing house Suhrkamp has promised a "sensational release" during next year’s Thomas Bernhard year. The publishing house will release...
  3. Thomas Bernhard Interview This appears to have been conducted in 1984, on the eve of the publication of his novel Woodcutters. Gotta love this. Right off the bat...
  4. The Thomas Bernhard Checklist Here's your guide to all the Bernhard available in English. . . . continue reading, and add your comments...
  5. Michael Hofmann on Thomas Bernhard Stop what you're doing and read Michael Hofmann on Bernhard at the LRB. The book under discussion is Old Masters, which has an odd sort...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>