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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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.


  • [[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: Taking a Chance on ANS

Now that the Naked Singularity Big Read is concluded, we’re running short responses to the book by Big Read participants. Here’s Craig Chisholm discussing his general impressions of A Naked Singularity.

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

To begin an, at this point, untested novel of considerable girth with a biblical passage about the inadequacy of mankind, demanded that I adjust, or at least consider, the barometer of my expectations. There is a reason print-on-demand publishers are rightfully referred to as vanity presses. But in the history of publishing there are texts, Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Poe’s Tamerlane and Other Poems, Proust’s Swann’s Way, that have been initially paid for out of the author’s own pocket and have become classics, or at least documents of a time in history. What becomes of American poetry if Whitman doesn’t scrimp and save to afford the first edition of Leaves of Grass? Would William Carlos Williams bother to pen his Paterson cycle?

Yet these examples are few and far between. Contemporary publishing houses produce such trash that one might as well read some non-establishment trash. So you take a chance. And place yourself in the most ideal of physical environments to assure that the text has the best chance of delivering its’ story. I started at a beach and finished in a hammock. The day that elapsed in between was spent in a courtroom, Alabama, a small town in Puerto Rico, Brooklyn Heights, a mile or so north of my hammock, and in the world and mind of one of American fiction’s most of-late humorous and condemning protagonists.

A blend of postmodern DFW’s Infinite Jest, Slothrop’s antics, classic heist novels, and social criticism delivered with poignancy and ferocity by the jaded, idealist defense attorney, Casi. I am also reminded of Musil’s character Ulrich in the “story of ideas,” A Man Without Qualities. The disparate tropes found in A Naked Singularity allow for different levels of reading, which make for an engaging, thoughtful text. And also a very quick read that, thankfully for the new distribution by U of C press, gave me opportunity to reread.

A book with as much physics and philosophy as contained in ANS could be a slog, if it wasn’t also hilarious: an obscenely obese nemesis named The Whale whose “eyes didn’t line up” and with “teeth that were more like fangs,” a character that decides watching The Honeymooners on repeat will somehow make the Kramdens and Nortons three dimensional; the fact that someone is watching The Honeymooners at all, as if there isn’t a more contemporary example, a list of all the great men in history-from Homer Simpson to Engelbert Humperdink, and a fellow attorney of means with an obsession with perfection that leads him to concoct a perfect crime. The humor in difficult novels (and this isn’t difficult; this is a joy), is often overlooked. I’m thinking specifically of Ulysses.

A novel with the depth of ANS should be analyzed, deconstructed, found fault with, explored. Casi’s commentary on the American justice system, the way archaic drug laws work to disenfranchise millions of potential voters, the morality of the death penalty, how Television and consumerism work to turn American culture into its own type of inescapable black hole all have merit. As does the fact that the Benitez boxing metaphor—while great fun to read—certainly contributed to the years ANS spent as a print-on-demand title. Even the publishing history of ANS is a microscopic naked singularity, a speck amidst darkness. Casi’s story is just that. And as he says at the end of Chapter 25, asking why he was made to read something so disturbing, we get an answer to the question, why write and why read.

“Because it’s a story.”

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

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  1. 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...
  2. 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...
  3. 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...
  4. 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...
  5. 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...

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1 comment to Naked Singularity Big Read: Taking a Chance on ANS

  • We really do tend to look down on self-published books, but De La Pava made the point in some article I read (I don’t remember where) that we don’t treat independent filmmakers the same way, or musicians or other artists who fund their own projects. I really liked this novel, and I’m definitely more willing to take a chance on self-published books in the future.

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