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

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.


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  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
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Lost in the Funhouse

Lostinthefunhouse It was while reading DFW’s long story (novella, really) "Westward Goes the Course of Empire" (from Girl with Curious Hair) that I first heard of John Barth’s classic story, Lost in the Funhouse." DFW’s story itself was an attempt to destroy the world created by "Lost in the Funhouse;" in "Westward Goes," DFW referrs to "Lost in the Funhouse" as "the greatest metafictional story ever." Then I saw on Girl With Curious Hair’s copyright page that DFW tells us that portions of his collection were first scribbled in the margins of "Lost in the Funhouse."

I quickly realized there was a serious gap in my reading.

When my copy of Barth’s collection Lost in the Funhouse arrived, I first turned to the book’s seventh story, "Lost in the Funhouse." (Unlike some collections, Lost in the Funhouse is meant to be a cohesive whole, and you may even see some benefits to reading it all in order.) Some of Barth’s technique seemed somewhat dated (largely because so many writers were inspired to imitate the very story I was reading), but it was clear that I was in the presence of a master. Regardless of my familiarity with the metafictional aspects, the story was brilliantly conceived, a layered work that both captured the tried-and-true essentials of voice and plot while making implicit, profound points about writing and authorship.

Perhaps the most efficient way to describe "Lost in the Funhoues" is as follows: In the story Barth includes a diagram, with four points labeled A, B, C, and D. A corresponds to a story’s beginning, B it’s instigating incident, C it’s climax, and D its conclusion. Included at the beginning of Lost in the Funhouse is a strip of paper (the longest and shortest story ever). On one side are the words "ONCE UPON A TIME THERE" on the other side ""WAS A STORY THAT BEGAN". We are encouraged to cut the slip of paper out and connect points A, B, C, and D (labeled on the corners of the paper) to make a mobius strip. If you were to do that, the points A, B, C, and D on the strip would bear the same relationship to one another as do the points A, B, C, and D in "Lost in the Funhouse."

I’m finding the rest of this collection to fit this template in one way or another. Some of the stories here have the trappings of the conventional short story–plot, 3-D characters, symbols–but sure enough, Barth finds ways to subvert them (both subtlety and not-so-subtlety). Others of these stories are clearly written to challenge preconceived notions of what a short story is. One of them can have any one of 4 narrators (the 3 characters and Barth himself). Another one consists of the story telling itself.

All the pieces in this collection are united by the common goal of pushing the form forward, of a conscious attempt to not repeat what has come before. It’s an admirable goal, and history has clearly spoken as to whether Barth achieved it or not.

Hopefully, I’ll have time to write more about this collection in upcoming weeks. There’s lots here to talk about.

Previous readings.

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