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my review of Thomas Bernhard's fun little book, My Prizes. Rarely has looking a gifthorse in the mouth been taken to this level." />

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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.

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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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Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

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Naked Singularity

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Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

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Tale of Genji

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

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Interviews from Conversational Reading

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See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

Ingratitude, Bernhard-Style

We’ve put up a few items from the forthcoming winter 2011 issue of The Quarterly Conversation (see it all on Monday).

One of the preview items is my review of Thomas Bernhard’s fun little book, My Prizes. Rarely has looking a gifthorse in the mouth been taken to this level.

Despite the titanic displays of thanklessness in My Prizes, Bernhard makes no secret of the important roles many of these prizes play in his life; perhaps this is his way of acknowledging that, whether or not he takes them as an honor, they are meaningful to him. One prize, for instance, allows Bernhard to buy his first home. Another gives him the means to own his first car. Yet another he links indelibly to his near-death by his lifelong companion, tuberculosis. Moreover, it is clear that these prizes stir up very personal feelings: if Bernhard merely accepted the prize as a cold, bureaucratic transaction, he would not go out of his way to insult the bestowers of no less than five of the nine prizes. (The worst insult Bernhard lands, in my accounting, is on the giver of the Austrian State Prize for Literature, who nearly punches Bernhard in retribution for his acceptance speech.) By contrast, in at least four cases those who give the prizes manage to strike Bernhard where it hurts. These slights most commonly take the form of gross errors in Bernhard’s biography during the award ceremony; almost certainly the worst of these errors is when the giver of the Prize of the Cultural Circle of the Federal Association of German Industry changes his gender.

You’ll also want to have a look at Damion Searls’ The Greatest Japanese Writer You’ve Never Heard Of, which doubles as the introduction to NYRB Classics’ Tun-huang by Yasushi Inoue, just published.

And while you’re at it, take a look at Searls’ list of his 10 favorite NYRB Classics.

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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. Prizes A good essay by Louis Menand on literary prizes. When the first Nobel Prize in Literature went to Sully Prudhomme, in 1901, the choice was...
  3. 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...
  4. The Thomas Bernhard Checklist Here's your guide to all the Bernhard available in English. . . . continue reading, and add your comments...
  5. Bernhard's Prose I have a review of Prose by Thomas Bernhard at The National. Hard to believe this is the first English publication of Bernhard’s 1967 collection...

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