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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Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

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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

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Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

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A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

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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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  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
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  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
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Life: A User's Manual

In Life: A User’s Manual, Georges Perec describes a rarely visited tribe deep within Sumatra. An anthropologist is trying to understand the habits of the natives. He comes to the village bearing gifts

He’d gone forward, greeted them with the Malayan gesture of stroking their ginders before placing his right hand on his heart, and put a gift-offering in front of each–a little bag of tea or tobacco. But they didn’t answer, didn’t nod their heads, didn’t touch the gifts

A little later dogs began to bark and the village filled with men, women, and children. the men were armed with spears, but were not threatening. Nobody looked at him, nobody seemed to notice he was there.

Appenzzell spent several days in the village without succeeding in making contact with its laconic inhabitants. He exhausted his small supply to tea and tobacco to no effect; no Kubu–not even a child–ever took a single one of these little bags which the daily storm made useless by each evening. The best he could do was to watch how the Kubus lived and to begin to commit what he saw to writing.

I think Perec has provided us with an excellent metaphor for the act of reading. We all are like Appenzzell, trying to understand a group of people that proceed with their daily lives right before our eyes, but without acknowledging us in the least.

More soon about this truly bizarre, but indisputably beautiful book.

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3 comments to Life: A User's Manual

  • Herb Levy

    If the copy of Perec’s novel that you’re reading actually has a colon after the word “life” in the title, you should try to sell it on e-bay for a lot of money, because it is a rare and unusual printing of the book.
    Just as there’s no apostrophe in Finnegans Wake, there’s no colon in Life A User’s Manual. This is true for both the French original (La Vie mode d’emploi) & the US/UK translation.

  • Kinga

    I have just finished reading this book but I must say it didn’t occur to me that it could be a metaphor. I think it is going a little too far. After all that tribe purposedly ignored him and they kept running away from him, because they wanted to get rid of him. Do you think the characters in the book are trying to do the same?

  • Kinga: I meant my remarks to only pertain to the excerpt quoted above. I didn’t mean to imply that Perec meant the quote as a metaphor for reading, just that I perceived it as such.
    Herb: Very perceptive.You’re absolutely right, and I thinkthe implications of what you have poited out are interesting.

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