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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  • The Translation BestsellerThe Translation Bestseller

    I wonder if, given the minuscule amount of translated books published each year, but the relative regularity of a bestseller... »
  • Future LibraryFuture Library

    Cool idea. Edouard Levé would have been a fantastic participant. A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka,... »
  • Juan Jose SaerJuan Jose Saer

    You all should really be reading Juan Jose Saer (if you're not already). His books have a very particular feel . . . I could... »
  • In the ArchipelagoIn the Archipelago

    Jill Schoolman, interviewed at BOMB. Hope everybody reading this in the Bay Area will come out to the event with Scholastique... »
  • How They ThinkHow They Think

    Okay, I know it's wrong to respond to clickbait, but—the thing that pisses me off about this is that it's somehow a... »
  • FlamethrowersFlamethrowers

    It's kind of amazing that the NYRB published Frederick Seidel's lazy review of The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, one of last... »
  • Elena FerranteElena Ferrante

    A few months ago when Knausgaard fever was sweeping these States, I saw some people promulgating the argument that if a woman... »
  • Ahh, the MemoriesAhh, the Memories

    Just reminiscing, but now that we're talking about Mitchell it seems relevant to share the time I watched the Cloud Atlas movie... »
  • A Horrified And Sympathetic Response To Michael Haneke’s The Seventh ContinentA Horrified And Sympathetic Response To Michael Haneke’s The Seventh Continent

    So I've got a little something in the latest issue of Drunken Boat. If you'll indulge me in some meta commentary, the origin... »
  • The Strange LibraryThe Strange Library

    I don't really know why, but a new book from Haruki Murakami always seems to have a bit of that wow factor, even though I've... »

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.


  • 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 […]

On Beauty

I knew Frank Rich was a great political columnist. Turns out he might be a pretty decent literary critic as well. He has an essay on On Beauty.

Smith is after so much in "On Beauty" that, as with "White Teeth," not quite all of it comes together at the end. And sometimes in the later pages the stage management is all too visible, as in a climactic scene in which a political demonstration in the Wellington streets brushes against a particularly tawdry extramarital assignation for diagrammatic effect. Nor does every character have the weight of the Belseys; they intermingle with some cartoons. In her failings as in her strengths, Smith often seems more reminiscent of the sprawling 19th-century comic novelists who preceded Forster than her idol himself.

But that’s not always the case. What finally makes "On Beauty" affecting as well as comic is Smith’s own earnest enactment of Forster’s dictum to "only connect" her passions with the prose of the world as she finds it. For all the petty politics, domestic battles and cheesy adulteries of "On Beauty," she never loses her own serious moral compass or forsakes her pursuit of the transcendent.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Eco on Beauty In the Guardian, Umberto Eco has an essay on what is considered aesthetic. He seems to be arguing that the “anything goes” mentality of the...
  2. On Beauty While virtually every other English-language periodical in existence has been euphoric over Zadie Smith’s new book, Newsweek’s David Gates apparently hates it. No hot button...
  3. A New Lit Manifesto Maud Newton reports on a new literary manifesto by Tom Robbins in the new Harpers. It’s not available online, but Maud has graciously typed out...
  4. Et Tu James Wood? Jeanette Winterson on narrative in literature: I think the Anglo-American tradition is much more linear than the European tradition. If you think about writers like...

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