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The End of Oulipo?

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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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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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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.

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Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

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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.


  • 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

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 we have about this week’s section in the comments. This can be anything, from, What does the story about X mean? to How do you translate trompe-l’œil, and what exactly is it? to Where did we last see Madame de Beaumont?

I’ll do my best to answer all the questions, but I’d like everyone else to provide answers as well!

I’ll get things started: Does anyone know if the Kubus, the tribe that Appenzzell attempted to live with, actually existed, or if existed any kind of similar tribe?

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9 comments to Life Big Read: Question Thread

  • A fun idea. I have not read the story so all I can contribute are the obvious links which indicate that the answer is yes.

    http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Kubus

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubu_people

  • Stephen

    Hey Scott.

    So the Kubas are, or were, actual hunters and gatherers. It’s quite interesting that Perec would write of such people, who have few tribal possessions and no significant belief in private property ownership. It is very much the bedrock in terms of our human relationship with things. While the significance of Malinowski’s anthropology is less clear, (If I recall correctly he studied the relationship between the material, social and ideological levels of society, emphasizing in particular how the material or economic base informed the social and ideological levels) Marcel Mauss expanded his own ethnological observations into a book, The Gift. This book, which I haven’t read but have read about, as perhaps you and others have, is concerned with the concept of reciprocity, and the significance of the reciprocal relationships established between giver and receiver in the exchange of a ‘thing’. Or, as with Apenzzell, the failure to establish such a relationship with gift exchange. Obviously, this contrasts significantly with capitalist exchange and the value or meaning such exchange has on ‘things’, changing gifts into commodities-and reshaping human relationship in the process.

    I’d also like to mention the significance I found in the image of the rubber tappers and the tropical-wood trees being floated downstream, which Apenzzell meets as he makes his way upstream. It’s such a telling image of the global dynamic which capitalism established, as it grew out of its mercantile roots, whereby the ‘third world’ was created so the ‘first world’ could acquire resources and produce lots of ‘thing’s.

  • Gilly

    I found the Appenzzell episode moving, funny and tragic all at once. It takes place in the 1930s, doesn’t it, before the wholesale exploitation of resources in south east Asia .You can imagine Appenzzell thought he would find a tribe no one else had studied. With all his good intentions he was still going to exploit them. I admired the determination of the Kuba people to evade the anthropologist, to refuse his gifts and his help. It reminded me of the way Australian indigenous people refused to pass on Dreamtime stories, preferring to die with them untold. Sad and humbling. It’s interesting that the Kuba are losing vocabulary, at the same time as everyone in the building back in Paris seems to be piling words on words, objects on objects. Then Perec made me laugh out loud with his throwaway reference to the carpenter who asks his apprentice to pass the thing (le machin) ignoring the precise words for the tools of his trade.

    I liked the irony of Mme Moreau unable to find a handyman in her village Saint-Mouezy as all the cottages are now weekenders for do-it-youselfers all equipped from her catalogue.

    The elaborate James Sherwood sting; I was just thinking what a great film this would make and when I googled Ursula Sobieski I found this discussion group had already had that idea!
    http://www.readliterature.com/BC_laviemodedemploi.htm
    Some interesting decoding going on here.

    I feel Perec must have foreseen Google as I am doing a kind of Perec thing here, trying to dive beneath the surface to go further with his stories, characters and objects.

    Here’s a question I want to ask. Are the many paintings real pictures? Are some of them real? Or did Perec make them all up?

  • I liked the way Perec laid an O. Henry ending on the Sherwood tale. In a by the way comment, we are led to believe that the one million was paid in counterfeit dough.

  • The surface reading indicates the tribe but, there’s this reference which I actually found first: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubuś
    I went back and re-read the section and the comments about “they who defend themselves” and “Sons of the Interior” made be re-examine the section. Perhaps it’s nothing but it certainly does make it a bit more puzzling to me as a reader. This is especially the case since Perec emphasizes that Appenzzell is Jewish.

  • Messed up the link, sorry.
    http:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubuś

  • admin

    Gilly: Excellent question. I have no idea, but I wouldn’t put it past Perec to have tossed in a few “real” paintings.

  • [...] I’d like to pull this from last week’s question thread: So the Kubas are, or were, actual hunters and gatherers. [...]

  • Philip

    I’m really enjoying this but I realize I am a long way behind schedule!

    Is there a reason for the absence of Beaumont 2? It jumps from Beaumont 1 to Beaumont 3.

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