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.

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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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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

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


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  • 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
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  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
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James Wood’s Favorite Reads of 2012

Agree with this one. The refreshing thing about My Struggle is how Knausgaard fails to romanticize his life or fall in to cheap pessimism. Yes, he’s straightforward about what he considers to be the pleasures of his life, and he knows that his lifestyle has a certain hip cachet in Western societies, but he’s honest about what that life is and the costs that must be endured along with it. Many writers and readers could learn from this.

I also loved Karl Ove Knausgaard’s book “My Struggle” (Archipelago), which I reviewed at length in the magazine. I felt that the book didn’t get the attention it deserved. Was it a novel or a memoir, or something in between? Knausgaard has written five more volumes of whatever this book is, and these have made him famous and infamous in his native Norway (where it is reckoned that a fifth of the entire population has read him). So English-speaking readers are going to be able to make up their own minds, at their own speed, as these books appear over the next few years. Knausgaard tells the story, such as it is, of his childhood and adolescence, his marriage, his life as a father, husband, and son, and his desperate need to be a writer. The book is more like a dramatic essay than anything else, and the form allows Knausgaard room for digressions, reflections, asides. This is a book intensely hospitable to ideas, and it is thrilling to witness a properly grave and ironic mind, treating, in a theoretical and philosophical and yet fundamentally unshowy way (a massive difference between Knausgaard and certain show-offy American novelists, who always seem to be squeezing the juices of their obsessive fandom over their cultural subjects), all kinds of elements of life: having children, the working of memory, reading Adorno, playing guitar and drums in crappy rock bands, drinking too much, looking at Constable drawings, sex (good and bad), and death.

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  1. Buddenbrooks: Why Woods? Like Scott, I’m reading the John E. Woods translation of Buddenbrooks.  I confess that my decision to read this particular translation was not the product...
  2. Josipovici on Tóibín on James THERE ARE GREAT scholar critics, such as Erich Auerbach, Northrop Frye and Christopher Ricks, and great cultural critics, such as Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes,...
  3. Favorite Reads of 2011: Beckett’s Trilogy I don’t know what to tell you; Beckett’s trilogy is essential. May you all read it before you die. ...
  4. Favorite Reads of the Year (3) 13. The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya: In my opinion, Castellanos Moya is one of the most interesting Latin American authors to...
  5. TQC Favorites of 2012: Jeff Bursey Jeff Bursey’s most recent review for The Quarterly Conversation was of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard in the Winter 2013 issue. #1: My Struggle,...

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3 comments to James Wood’s Favorite Reads of 2012

  • Pat O'Donnell

    Quoting Wood: “a massive difference between Knausgaard and certain show-offy American novelists, who always seem to be squeezing the juices of their obsessive fandom over their cultural subjects.” Are the certain show-offy American novelists (and the use of the word “certain” here is duplicitous, since Wood does not identify with any degree of certainty who these authors are) squeezing the juices of their obsessive fandom over their cultural subjects (which are, uh, what exactly?) like one would squeeze a lemon over a nice piece of fish, or did he mean to say that they are squeezing the juices of their fandom OUT of their cultural subjects (catechretically, as one would squeeze blood out of a turnip)? Either way, this phrase makes no sense to me, beyond being an example of pointless snarkiness.

  • kiko

    Speaking of snarkiness what does catechretically mean?

    • Pat O'Donnell

      It’s not snarkiness to use a rhetorical term used for a number of things, but in this case, mixing metaphors, like talking about squeezing juice out of a lemon in one moment and blood out of a turnip in the next. I was actually being mildly self-ironic, not snarky toward Wood. And there are these wonderful things called dictionaries if you don’t know the meaning of a word (now THAT is snarky).

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