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.

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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  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
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  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
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  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
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  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

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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