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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  • 20 Books at 3820 Books at 38

    I'm surprised to learn Andres Newman is so young. Also, great overview of his books in English. Andrés Neuman is... »
  • The Future ModianoThe Future Modiano

    The Complete Review has the details of the future Englishing of our most recent Nobel laureate. And also, sales figures. For... »
  • Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38

    Issue 38 right here. or TOC after the jump. Features Readings, Fragments,... »
  • On KafkaOn Kafka

    Rivka Galchen on the new Kafka bio by Reiner Stach. I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for... »
  • Me on ModianoMe on Modiano

    My review of Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano. The most focused of the book’s three diffuse novellas is... »
  • Elena Ferrante InterviewedElena Ferrante Interviewed

    At the NY TImes. I'm currently reading Book 1. Q. You insist on anonymity and yet are developing a cult following,... »
  • Infinite FictionsInfinite Fictions

    Buy David Winters's book.... »
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    At BOMB: A couple of months after that, in February 2011, Béla Tarr presented the world premiere of The Turin Horse at... »
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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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

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.

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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...

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