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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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You Say

  • Max: Henry, it seems a little odd to say that Proust and Kafka an
  • Mike: I agree with much of this discussion, though I'm not sure wh
  • S: This outpouring has been pretty wide-spread indeed. To be ho
  • Will: Salman rushdie is a microscopic crapule on the asshole of th
  • Henry: I think the fireworks may come from the fact that these auth
  • Paul: Vanessa Place's 'La Medusa' seems like an American authored
  • Lance: I agree with you about the state of American fiction and I b

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.


  • 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 […]

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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More from Conversational Reading:

  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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