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 […]

Josipovici on Sebald

Terry pretty much says it all when he introduces this review of The Emigrants with:

It is customary now to quote Susan Sontag when praising W.G. Sebald, but perhaps the earliest and most prescient notice of Sebald’s promise came from Gabriel Josipovici, the British novelist, playwright, and critic.

And we can feel fortunate that critics of Josipovici’s caliber were around to take note of this author before he was a common commodity.

Interesting, too that Sontag is commonly blurbed in conjunction with Sebald since she’s also often blurbed in conjunction with Walser. Though in the latter case she has a little more claim in the matter–Susan Bernofsky once informed me that Sontag had caught wind of Walser in the ’80s, long before much of his stuff was in English, and certainly long before English-reading critics began to celebrate him.

And here’s a great a moment from the annals of book reviewing:

I have spent so long describing what is only a twenty-page story because it is not every day one is sent a masterpiece to review (I suppose one is lucky if it happens more than once or twice a lifetime). And this story is what it is because, like all good art, the form and the style bring into being what would otherwise have remained in darkness and silence for ever, so that a mere account of what the story was ‘about’ would not have begun to do it justice.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Self on Sebald The English Center of PEN has published some notes from a talk Will Self gave on W.G. Sebald, loosely based on the novel he (Self)...
  2. How Sebald Explains Modernity: J.J. Long’s W.G. Sebald In the introduction to his book on Sebald, W.G. Sebald, J.J. Long rather amorphously states that his intention is to discuss how Sebald’s works deal...
  3. Searching for Sebald One of the nice things about having this blog is that I get to see what you buy through my Amazon links. (Don’t worry, it’s...
  4. Sebald Guides From New Directions Just as I'm finishing up my first reading of Vertigo, New Directions has made available guides to The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn. (via...
  5. Sebald's SIlkworms Some interesting thoughts on The Rings of Saturn over at Vertigo: Within a few sentences, however, Sebald makes a most remarkable turn by likening the...

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4 comments to Josipovici on Sebald

  • Jacob Silverman

    Sebald was also a big champion of Walser. New Directions’ edition of “The Tanners” includes a great intro by Sebald.

  • The story goes back further than that – Guy Davenport was writing both fiction and criticism about Walser in English (as well as drawing portraits of him) by at least 1977:

    http://ajourneyroundmyskull.blogspot.com/2008/01/robert-walser-drawings-by-guy-davenport.html

    Davenport was friends with Christopher Middleton, whose translation Jakob von Gunten came out in English in 1969, and he may have been publishing short stories well before then. And Mark Harman’s collection Robert Walser Rediscovered came out in 1985 – the Walser rediscovery in English has been going on for a long time.

  • Hey Dan: Thanks for the expansion on my remarks. I’m aware of Middleton’s early translations, as well as the Harman (both pointed out to me by Bernofsky). Davenport’s drawings are new to me.

    It’s true that Walser has been appreciated by a select few for a while now, though hes never had the kind of exposure in English he’s now getting.

  • [...] be Writing and the Body, adapted from four lectures on literature given by Gabriel Josipovici (no mean admirer of Sebald). To give you an idea, the first lecture starts with a story by Borges and moves on to an [...]

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