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.


  • 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: 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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