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

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.


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    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
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  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
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  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
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  • 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 […]

On The Greatness of John Hawkes

I've long suspected that John Hawkes was a superb author, and now I've confirmed it by reading his novel Second Skin. I'm hoping to eventually do a post going into what I think makes this book so good, but I don't have the time right now.

Fortunately, Jim Shepard's appreciation of Hawkes from the book Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives has just been exerpted at The Rumpus. (And be sure to check the comments thread for an odd, somewhat spazzy comment by Rick Moody.)

These observations of Hawkes as a workshop leader seem very much in keeping with my experience of reading his Second Skin:

As our teacher, Jack modeled for us so many things. He reminded us of the ways in which fiction so often was willing to confront ugliness in the service of its opposite. He taught us to value obsessive focus. He insisted that when writing we not forget our allegiance to the body. He demanded we stay willing to be educated about our emotions.

But most of all, he taught us to leap at the astonishingly idiosyncratic wherever it appeared in our work. To value the expressive potential of the unexpectedly strange.

Celebrating such stories as they came across his desk, Jack exulted in the excess, the unruliness, the energy that resulted in our having turned ourselves over to our intuition. What he was teaching me, when he taught me always to look for the strangeness and to value the weird, was to understand that those moments that I hadn’t fully planned were reliably the ones in which I electrified my inert little narrative, and most likely, most fully revealed myself. Or at least: revealed what was potentially my most interesting self.

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  1. I’m Not Sure Why John Hawkes Is Postmodern But he’s certainly an incredible talent. I first encountered Hawkes’ writing via the criticism of William H. Gass (in A Temple of Texts), who...
  2. Read John Wyndham! The Penguin Blog offers an impassioned plea to readers to give the postapocalyptic Brit John Wyndham a shot. I’m not familiar with Wyndham, who wrote...
  3. Reading Resolutions 2009: John Lingan (John Lingan is a frequent contributor to The Quarterly Conversation. In the Winter issue, he reconsidered William Gaddis’s novels The Recognitions and J R through...
  4. John Freeman´s Experiments John Freeman reviewing Only Revolutions: The stunning lack of experimentation in American fiction during the past two decades partly explains why [Mark Z. Danielewski´s] 2000...
  5. John Cowper Powys John Cowper Powys gets an essay in the latest Guardian Review. Words poured from him, and he was famous for never rereading any of them....

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7 comments to On The Greatness of John Hawkes

  • Scott, I really am looking forward to your essay on Hawkes. He absolutely knocked me out too when I first read “Blood Oranges” so long ago (way back in the late 1970′s), and there are also beautiful shorter pieces he wrote for Mark Mirsky’s FICTION,long ago, too. FICTION published alot of his work in the late 1970′s. You might want to check those older issues. Also Donald Barthelme published alot of his stories in FICTION,too. He started it with Mark Mirsky and John Hawkes was such a force back then. Just to say how happy I am he’s getting a long overdue re-look.

  • John (or Jack as it were) Hawkes second novel, The Beetle Leg , obtuse as it is, STILL resonates with me. And I read it over four months ago. I think it was Bill Gass who said about Hawkes, “He is the only writer whose sentences breathe what they see.”

  • I agree with Randy on The Beetle Leg: it’s a very difficult read, but something about it has stuck with me…. and the passage in which the title came into play is simply gorgeous. I’ve tried and failed three times to read his incredibly difficult first novel, Cannibal. I think he gets somewhat easier to read after these first two, but no less interesting.

  • Thanks to you and Randy for the recommendation. The Beetle Leg sounds like a good second book. By the way, I’ve just been informed that Dalkey will be reissuing The Passion Artist in the spring.

  • Thanks for reminding me of Hawkes! I heard him read and answer questions about thirty years ago: he insisted that a novel should come entirely out of one’s head, and claimed he never researched anything. I read The Lime Twig, The Blood Oranges, maybe some others, and was very taken with the spell they cast. (I connect them in my mind with Jose Donoso’s The Obscene Bird of Night, which I remember as a very strange and powerful book.)

  • Just finished the obscure but brilliant ‘The Beetle Leg’: its not so much a surrealistic wester n as magical surrealism.

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