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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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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.


  • 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 […]

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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More from Conversational Reading:

  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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