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

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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

Life Big Read Question Thread 5

So here are a couple of things for you to ponder. Number one, now that we’ve gotten through most of the book, I want to return to one of the very first questions we brought up–do the constraints matter to you or not?

I’d like to know what everyone thinks, so please do share your thoughts. Have you thought about any of the constraints as you’ve read? Do you wish you knew more about them? Less? Would the book be different without them? Would your reading be different? Do you care?

And secondly, if you haven’t discovered yet, Chad Post has been doing some great blogging of his read of Life A User’s Manual as part of this Big Read. He’s put up his third and latest post just this week, and it happens to deal very much with the constraints. So check that out, plus his other posts on the read so far.

And if you have any questions or answers, put them here.

And if you’re enjoying the read, I remind you, this is donation week.


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  1. Life Big Read: Question Thread So I want to try something new here. Each week I’ll post a question thread, and then we all can post any questions at all...
  2. Life Big Read Question Thread 3 Give us your questions and thoughts right here. For my own part, you may have noticed that I didn't do some summarizing thoughts + a...
  3. Life Big Read Question Thread 2 Give me your questions, your answers for this week's reading. And I'd like to pull this from last week's question thread . . . ....
  4. Life Big Read Question Thread 4 This week concurrently with Life A User's Manual I've been reading Beckett's trilogy starting with Molloy, and I noticed this interesting coincidence of thoughts. They...
  5. Welcome to the Life A User’s Manual Big Read Okay everyone, the Life A User's Manual Big Read starts today. Welcome! If you need a refresher on the schedule of reading, have a look...

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3 comments to Life Big Read Question Thread 5

  • Neil Griffin

    The constraints are very interesting to know about while reading, but I have gotten my enjoyment out of the individual stories and descriptions in the book. When I tell my friends about the book, they definitely latch onto how cool the constraints sound, but after following the knight for the first 100 pages or so with my graph paper, I stopped and just let the stories do their work. That said, I kept out my paper and mentally charted where we were, generally, but I definitely wasn’t as rigorous as I was during the beginning of the book.

  • The constraints are crucial to the work. The Knight’s Tour keeps all of the puzzle pieces separate. If, on the other hand, you read the building left to right starting on the top floor and moving down, some pieces are joined together in small clumps as happens when a solved puzzle is broken apart and put back in the box. As an old jigsaw puzzle fan, I always like to start with all pieces separated.

  • Neil Griffin

    I’m sure I’m not the only reader on this site tackling The Pale King at the same time as Life and I’m wondering if anybody else has found it a rich experience to read both of these concurrently. I just got to the chapter that was excerpted recently, about the boy who sets the seemingly arbitrary goal of kissing every part of his body and all I could think of were the watercolor puzzles. Also: the parts about the trying to get a raise from the boss in Life are interesting to read with Pale King.

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