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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com
  • 20 Books at 3820 Books at 38

    I'm surprised to learn Andres Newman is so young. Also, great overview of his books in English. Andrés Neuman is... »
  • The Future ModianoThe Future Modiano

    The Complete Review has the details of the future Englishing of our most recent Nobel laureate. And also, sales figures. For... »
  • Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38Quarterly Conversationi Issue 38

    Issue 38 right here. or TOC after the jump. Features Readings, Fragments,... »
  • On KafkaOn Kafka

    Rivka Galchen on the new Kafka bio by Reiner Stach. I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for... »
  • Me on ModianoMe on Modiano

    My review of Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano. The most focused of the book’s three diffuse novellas is... »
  • Elena Ferrante InterviewedElena Ferrante Interviewed

    At the NY TImes. I'm currently reading Book 1. Q. You insist on anonymity and yet are developing a cult following,... »
  • Infinite FictionsInfinite Fictions

    Buy David Winters's book.... »
  • Tarr After the HorseTarr After the Horse

    At BOMB: A couple of months after that, in February 2011, Béla Tarr presented the world premiere of The Turin Horse at... »
  • Bolaño: A BiographyBolaño: A Biography

    This is a pretty fair assessment of Bolaño: A Biography. Denied access to papers in the Bolaño estate, the Argentine... »
  • Literary AdvocatesLiterary Advocates

    Very honored to be among the esteemed list of "Literary Advocates" named by Entropy magazine for 2014. The list of... »

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

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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

Naked Singularity Big Read: Before the Law

For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here.

I’d like to suggest that this weekend, as an adjunct to the Naked Singularity Big Read, you have a look at Kafka’s very short story, “Before the Law,” (which is actually taken from The Trial) and, if possible, Jacques Derrida’s essay thereof, also titled “Before the Law.” (The Kafka should be easy to locate on the Web; for the Derrida, you might want to visit your local library. It’s collected in Acts of Literature.)

What made me think of this essay was a quote from Garth Risk Hallberg’s profile of De La Pava:

In the abstract, “the law is so strikingly beautiful and logical,” he says, as opposed to “the faulty process of human beings…I feel annoyed for some reason when the criminal justice system fucks up, because I feel a great attachment to it.”

Compare this to what Derrida writes in “Before the Law”:

There is a singularity about relationship to the law, a law of singularity which must come into contact with the general or universal essence of the law without ever being able to do so.

Aside from the obvious use of singularity (is De La Pava a fan of Derrida?), what strikes me about this quote is how both De La Pava and Derrida are positing the law as this ideal system, more of an aspiration toward perfection than anything humans might actually achieve. When Derrida discusses the law in the essay, there are overtones of the metaphor’s relationship to language: that is, language bears a similar relationship to reality as does our law to the “universal essence of the law.” Both are systems created by humans to mimic the perfection that we find in the “real” world.

So, in other words, again we’re being pushed toward notions of perfection and singularity, as well as being warned off with the idea that such perfection sits in a dangerous and obscure place that we do not have access to. I think, as A Naked Singularity continues to expand, we will see these themes played out.

Readers might also have a look at the last chapter of Elizabeth Costello by JM Coetzee, which is a reworking of Kafka’s “Before the Law.”

For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Naked Singularity Big Read: Perfection For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. In chapter 3x2x1 (aka Chapter 6) De La Pava introduces one of the...
  2. Naked Singularity Big Read: About that Title For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. Hello everybody and welcome to our summer Big Read: A Naked Singularity by...
  3. Naked Singularity Big Read: Do Geniuses Make Mistakes? For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. Earlier this week we were talking about ideas of perfection, which are introduced...
  4. Naked Singularity Big Read: Commerce and Television For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. So, in the first 40 pages we talked about the title A Naked...
  5. Naked Singularity Big Read Prizes We’re starting the Big Read of A Naked Singularity in just under 2 weeks. Schedule here. And here are some images of the four signed...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

3 comments to Naked Singularity Big Read: Before the Law

  • Richard

    My problem with the “law”–and I suppose I mean this not simply in the “local” sense of NYS and NYC legalities and illegalities, but rather in the (slightly) larger sense of “law” in terms of US civil and criminal law–is that it is, like so much else we have to deal with, man-made, and man-altered. The “law” is inherently political to me, period. While I’m not here to advocate for “lawlessness” (whatever that might mean), I find it hard to conceive of someone seeing the “law” as beautiful, or perfect, or even nearing perfection. I happen to know (from hanging out at my local pub) a Manhattan public defender. He is one of the most admirable human beings I know. I asked him some time ago (before this read) what he thought of the “law.” His answer (and I am of course paraphrasing a long, slightly drunken discourse we had late one night) was that he admires the structure of the law–to expand: he thinks the structure is not just flawed, but basically f**cked, but it is still an intricate structure. He talked about viewing, seeing it, speaking it, reading it, hearing it, feeling it…as a living, breathing, amorphous but sometimes tangible thing that still somehow remains just out of reach. Of course I know the interviews I’ve read with de la Pava are not necessarily unedited, freewheeling drunken discourses (now THAT is an interview I would LOVE to read), and while I admire him and (so far) this book tremendously–I admire him as a writer and as someone who has obviously committed his life to being a public defendant, and loves it–I suppose I’m finding some of the quotations above (including Derrida), some of the ideas I’m feeling seep through in A Naked Singularity, and the idea of the “law” itself, a bit much to take too seriously. Let’s face it: there is no one “law”– even “the law” itself, as a concept, is sort of like the concept of “time.” There is no external (or eternal) evidence of its actual existence, rather they are both man-made attempts to try to harness its own fear of the unknown and the (perhaps) unknowable.

    I’m realizing this is probably reading like an unhinged rant…I am enjoying this book a lot, though I can’t yet put my finger on why. I think it has to do with Casi’s narrative voice, which I’m finding purely delightful. I’m also curious at certain gaps, which probaly no one else is even caring about: for instance, we have no sense AT ALL of the apartment Casi lives in. We know his keys, basically, but that’s about it. And yet…and yet, and yet: I feel like I can see the apartment building he lives in. The secondary characters, so far, are a total gas. I love the dialogue, and the long, unhinged, brilliantly paced monologues. The drug story is fantastic. It’s totally “unrealistic” as a monologue, and yet, like Pinter, for instance, or DeLillo, in terms of “speech,” it feels completely true.

    I guess what I might trying to communicate here is that I don’t exactly see “the law” as a metaphysical construct we have to overcome, or try to understand, or aspire to integrate into our…gulp…souls…Whereas, in Kafka, “the law” never feels like statutes to me, created by men/women, transgressed by men/women, policed by men/women…rather, in K, “the law” feels like one more metaphysical uncertainty, like life, death, “meaning,”–I feel the terrible grip of the great uncertainties/unknowables when I read Kafka on “the law”…in ANS so far, I don’t feel those terrible uncertainties/unknowables–at least not with regard to the obvious fetish Casi and de la Pava have with “the law”–which is totally local, arbitrary, and inherently unfair.

    I’m sensing someone wanting to protest with a comparison of the law to, say, mathematics, but I hope that if the urge is there, you will see how untenable that metaphorical relationship is…or maybe it’s not untenable…maybe math, too, is just another instance of mankind “making” (up) something to try and deal with uncertainty, the Great Uncertainty.

    Anyway, I AM ENJOYING THIS BOOK! I’ll be curious to see if I can articulate better when I’m through why exactly that is.

    And I want to disclaimer this again by reiterating: I have great admiration, based on what (little) I know about him/it so far, of de la Pava, of Casi, of this book…

  • Brandon

    Once this post got me thinking of Kafka, this bit on page 385 seems it could have been lifted in full from “The Trial”:

    “When I went back into the courtroom to get my bag all the court officers were gone and the door was locked. I went out through the sneaky door judges use to enter the courtroom. Beyond that door was a maze of hallways leading to a slew of doors but no magic EXIT sign in sight.
    I moved briskly with a determined gait as if I knew perfectly well where I was going. After making a couple of ill-advised turns, I was now irredeemably lost and couldn’t have retraced my steps had I fervently desired. I started opening doors at random without succor. Twice I opened the door to courtrooms where jurors were hearing evidence. The doors were supposed to have goddamn plaques detailing what was inside but they didn’t. When I came across the plaques they were bunched up on the ground, in a corner, next to a dropcloth and a can of paint. What evil genius had created these catacombs? And for what nefarious purpose?”

  • [...] This is also where Casi’s narrative begins to seriously break down: for instance, the strange, short chapter covering pages 406-408, where it’s not entirely clear that Casi is talking to Conley till a few paragraphs in. And then Casi’s still-stranger attempt at a confession, which ends in a surreal pitch for a fictitious HBO show called Clerical Confessions, loosely playing off of Cab Confessions. (Again resonances with “Before the Law.”) [...]

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>