Quantcast

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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

You Say

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

Shop though these links = Support this site


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 […]

On American Fiction Sucking

Some reasonable commentary in the responses to this post. By way of clarification, I don’t think Lennon meant (I certainly didn’t) that there are no good books being published in the U.S. right now. My point was that, if I decide to try out a completely unknown new author, I’m much more likely to find something that feels above-average with the translated stuff than with the U.S. stuff.

Obviously part of that is the fact that translated literature is much, much more curated, but people tend to undercut the importance of this. Finding a compelling new voice from a foreign language is a damn hard thing. There’s the fact that you’re not surrounded my media and agents from that culture like you are in the U.S. There’s the language barrier. There’s the simple distance involved, the larger amount of time and resources necessary for correspondence, etc. There’s the need to find someone who can translate it well, who really understands the source text. And people also need to take into account that pretty much all of the translation presses are almost universally, constantly on the brink of insolvency because they tend to publish things that are truly strange and challenging.

The state of affairs in U.S. publishing is different. There are a lot more presses that tend to do some good stuff but mix than in with a lot of books that are mediocre and aimed at a very different demographic than what someone like Lennon wants to read. You can debate the reasons why that is, but the fact remains that it’s harder to find something that you don’t feel “meh” about.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. American Fiction Sucks I read a lot of translated literature. Every now and then I make an effort to find out more about what’s being produced by my...
  2. South American Fiction I’m pretty up on Latin American fiction lately. I’m thrilled that all of Bolano is getting translated. I’m also interested to get a little deeper...
  3. Zoetrope All-Story Latin American Fiction Issue Zoetrope All-Story has published an all-Latin American fiction issue. The contents of the issue spring from the larger anthology El futuro no es nuestro, which...
  4. Latin American Fiction Beyond Marquez There's not much benefit in certain people's infatuation with reporting every last remark Gabriel Garcia Marquez might have made, but at least one good thing...
  5. Latin American Fiction Doesn’t Exist Not sure I entirely agree with novelist Jorge Volpi‘s ongoing essay on Latin American fiction, though he makes a provocative argument. Basically his take is...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

5 comments to On American Fiction Sucking

  • “you’re presumably being offered in translation only the best or the most noteworty books being published in those countries. Most of their dross remains untranslated.”

    I hear this argument all the time but don’t quite understand it. If I believed the “American publishing system” was failing to bring authors I might like to my attention (which I do), why would I believe it’s any more competent in bringing foreign authors I might like to my attention? Foreign books being “much more curated” notwithstanding, if the same people are doing the curating, it’s just going to reproduce the same results. I get that we in America are only exposed to the “prize-winning” books of foreign languages, but why is the same group of people who are generally so bad at bestowing prizes, at separating the best from the dross, when the books are in English (cough*Franzen*cough), suddenly endowed with unerring ability to separate the best from the dross when it comes to books in other languages? Answer: they’re not.

  • Herb Levy

    Ezra, most translated fiction in the United States comes from small often non-profit presses that, generally, are not run by the same people or by the same principles, who publish the majority of American fiction.

    The American authors published by, say, New Directions or Dalkey Archive, have more in common with the authors working in languages other than English that those presses publish than they have with most of the American authors that more commercial US presses publish.

  • Michael

    To me, it seems more a matter of target markets.

    Almost all the marketing dollars in the US are aimed at the middle — middle-aged, middle-class, middle-educated, and mostly women. They don’t even try to target me.

    But if you’ve got a book in translation by an author outside the US, you’re more likely to target someone like me. Someone outside the mainstream with diverse interests beyond the border. Someone who speaks other languages besides English, who has practiced other religions besides Protestantism, with relatives and in-laws who aren’t American.

    So of course I’m going to find a higher caliber of writer in translation. That’s who I hear about and listen to — the US market is mostly just noise, meant for someone else, not me.

  • Scott: The very fact that, as you correctly note, translated fiction is more highly curated only further explains why the translations we receive seem superior. If only domestic fiction were this thoroughly curated, we presumably wouldn’t get so much crap. It’s certainly possible that those doing “curation” of translation are more competent at the job than those responsible for it(supposedly) in the U.S.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>