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.


  • 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 […]

New Book: 2017 by Olga Slavnikova

2017 is one of those novels that I would get to if I lived in a world where I had all the time I wanted to read everything I wanted to. It was just published on March 18 in Marian Schwartz’s translation, Schwartz being the person behind many of the more interesting recent translations from Russian. Here’s a chunk from a review:

2017 is a novel that asks you to savor it slowly, bite by bite. Translator Marian Schwartz, one of the most accomplished Russian translators working today—who has translated the works of Nina Berberova, Edvard Radzinsky, and Mikhail Bulgakov, among others—has recreated Slavnikova’s dense novel in a smooth, eminently enjoyable English text. Passages describing the craft of obscure trades like gemcutting or rock-hounding flow from sentence to sentence with ease, making the translation seem effortless.

At its core, 2017 is a deceptively simple novel that explores the notion of authenticity in a modern life. . . .

I’m guessing I’m not the only one having to triage more and more these days when it comes to selecting which books to read. I’m probably going to read something like 80 books this year, and, actually, I feel like that’s too many, but also not nearly enough. I know there are people out there who will scoff at my 80, but, for me, it takes quite a lot of time to read that many books, and I think the point of serious diminishing returns probably hits somewhere around 70. So 80 is probably a little too much, but I’ll probably hit it by necessity. A good chunk of these books will be assignments that I have little or no say in, which I’m more or less okay with, since I tend to discover a lot of good literature that way, but still, every assigned book I read means one less book from a core author whose work I’d like to read in its entirety.

All that makes it very hard when I see something like 2017, a book that won a prestigious prize, is translated by a translator I have great respect for, and that has what sounds like a very interesting story. My position is that I have shelves of books such as this, and there’s no way to get to them all, much less get to them plus the older books I feel I need to read plus the assignments. It’s hard. I wish there was a way to get to all the books that look amazing, but there really isn’t.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. P & V’s Untranslated Book Rec Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky–the two translators perhaps better known as P & V–have been interviewed over at The Millions. They’re asked the question that...
  2. Translation Panel Write-up Critical Mass has posted my write-up of the translation panel I was on last week at City Lights. In my opinion, it was a very...
  3. Runners by Olga Tokarczuk Polish Writing has a nice interview with Olga Tokarczuk, author of Bieguni (Runners). Therein she discusses the "episodic consciousness" in her book: Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało: You...
  4. Best Translated Book Shortlist Party If you’re in NYC tonight, drop by for the announcement of the 10-title Best Translated Book shortlists, both for fiction and poetry. As Chad says:...
  5. Few Extra Bucks Book critic Joe Queenan begains a NYTBR humor piece with this admission: Freelance writers are always looking for ways to scare up a few extra...

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3 comments to New Book: 2017 by Olga Slavnikova

  • Tom

    Scott — I know what you mean. For serious bibliophiles, reading is not just a passion but a lifestyle.

    I’m always interested in other people’s literary habits (maybe so as to either justify or condemn my own). I try to devote 3 solid hours per day to books — if the work is extraordinary, then it sometimes possesses me entirely and I read for 6 or 7 hours straight — but I find those 3 blessed hours to be the sweet spot. I can productively read while still living a “real” life.

    It’s a strange compulsion to have. I sympathize with feeling beleaguered and even stressed out when confronting shelves of unread books. But why? I suppose it’s a way of combating mortality — there’s only so much time, after all, and we’re loathe to admit that.

  • jonathan

    I hit 60 last year, and I was pushing myself. I’m a very slow reader and don’t know how I would be able to keep up if I didn’t have a relatively easy job that doesn’t come home with me. Also a few slim volumes (poetry, the shorter Bolano novellas) pumped that number up a bit (although I did read Underworld, Moby-dick, and the two mammoth Alexander Theroux novels).

  • [...] by Olga Slavnikova. Winner of the Russian Booker Prize.  My interest was piqued after Conversational Reading’s lament about not having the time to read all the good books such as [...]

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