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.

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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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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.

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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.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

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Tale of Genji

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Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

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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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

Naked Singularity Big Read: Conclusions

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

This is the last post in the Naked Singularity Big Read, as per our schedule. Whether or not you liked the book, I hope everyone who participated had a good time.

Starting next week, we’ll be having a bunch of guest posts from participants in the read. And I may also chime in with some more thoughts on the book.

Now on to some concluding thoughts on our final chunk of prose.

In response to all the guilt and fear and sadness that Casi now associates with his and Dane’s plan and the very serious ways in which it seems to be biting him back, Casi pours himself into the brief for the Kingg case. He writes what is described as a very long book, which may in fact be the book that we are reading (although it could as well not be too). He gives it to Toom to read, and Toom, while being very impressed by the document (he calls it “astonishing”), says that it is not art:

I think what ultimately denied it that lofty status was the work’s selfish prescriptivism if that makes any sense, its innervating desire for a specific result. True art, by contrast, seems marked by a generous susceptibility to extrapolation. Your work, understandably, is not sufficiently oriented in that direction to constitute art and has more in common with something like advertising. Advertising of course, despite the activities it often subsumes, is not art and neither, regrettably, is your document. [617]

I’d first like to ask whether or not you think the Kingg brief is the book A Naked Singularity. I’ll also point out that many things that we now consider art, for instance great works from the medieval period in Europe, began as a kind of advertising, by Toom’s definition. And, of course, many kinds of art from the 20th century purposely conflated advertising in a way that would upset the dichotomy Toom is attempting to establish here. These remarks should also be read in light of De La Pava’s ongoing statements about television throughout the book.

After the Kingg plot ends, we reach Casi’s trial for various alleged misdeeds around his job. This, I think, will be one of the more controversial parts of A Naked Singularity. It obviously is being told in a highly ironic way, and its relationship to what actually is happening during these trials is tenuous at best. I’d like to ask what exactly you think all this means, how you think Casi is processing all this information, and, most of all, if this section of the book worked for you.

Then we get a last little bit about the boxer Wilfred Benitez. I think that the concluding paragraphs in the story De La Pava tells about Benitez give us some idea of why he has chosen to tell it to us. In part he says,

Today Wilfred lives in Saint Just, Puerto Rico, the barrio where his boxing career began in that makeshift backyard ring. The father who in those days put his arm around his seven-year-old son and showed him what to do is now dead. The wife he had when he was one of the strongest men int he world has abandoned him. He has few friends and fewer fans and his name is rarely mentioned anymore outside his house. [665]

De La Pava goes on to tell us that, “he is not, however, alone. Clara Benitez is with him, feeding and cleaning her son.” [665]

There is a lot here to think about. Conclusions to stories are rarely as romantic as the stories themselves, and sometimes it happens that people end up alone and unloved, but for the abiding affections of their mother. This ending to the Benitez story, which De La Pava needn’t have told us, seems to be here to point out that Casi may very well end up like this, despite his genius and the substantial chunk of money he may have access to.

Of course, Casi’s story needn’t end like this. The last lines of A Naked Singularity are very ambiguous. Something profound is about to happen. We do not know exactly where Casi will end up in life. The purpose of the book has been, in part, to show us that moment of transformation, of possibility, which may very well resemble a naked singularity for how it re-orders our world. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I look forward to your own interpretations of the novel, your verdicts on its quality, your questions, and where you see yourselves going next as readers.

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

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Naked Singularity Big Read: Boxing and the Disintegration of Reality For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. Throughout the last 50 or so pages of this week’s section we see...
  2. Naked Singularity Big Read: Possibilities and Potentials For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. In my mind, the chunk of this week’s read that deals with Casi’s...
  3. 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...
  4. Naked Singularity Big Read: Revolutions For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. So to start this week’s section, let’s actually go back to the last...
  5. Naked Singularity Big Read: Beyond the Zero For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. To start this week’s section, we are once again with Casi and Dane...

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3 comments to Naked Singularity Big Read: Conclusions

  • One brief observation about the ending: it clearly alludes to the ending of Moby Dick, a book that De La Pava has said has been influential. Casi turns to meet The Whale, and then all is sucked up into the vortex of the naked singularity. Having finished the book, I’m interested in going back to see if there are other allusion to MD.

  • John Wesley

    This book is a sloppily written and under-edited legal thriller with pretensions to a greatness it doesn’t possess, or maybe it does, but it very small doses, not nearly enough to justify all the hosannahs that have been thrown its way. You seem to have mistaken size and length for depth and intelligence. What a waste of my time. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Sarah

    He dies at the end (i think).

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