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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You Say

  • Neil G: Think of how less juvenile Marilynne Robinson's writing woul
  • Padraic: Funny, I had no idea Phillip Roth grew up in the Midwest...
  • Ryan Ries: Yeah, what exactly does the Midwestern thing mean? It appea
  • Bernie: Whoa now, mind your Midwestern readers there...
  • Gs: There seems to me an important facet of fiction revealed in
  • David Long: This is a list I posted a few days ago: 25 REASONS TO THA
  • Padraic: I think Saramango gives Coetzee a pretty good run for most a

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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

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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