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

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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

Conversations with Translators

Just to get this blog up to date with some audio interviews I’ve recorded in the last couple months.

Here’s me and Ottilie Mulzet with an hour-long, in-depth discussion on Seiobo There Below.

And here’s me, Lorin Stein, and Jan Steyn covering Edouard Levé’s books.

And lastly, recorded just this week, me and Sean Cotter on Blinding by Mircea Cartarescu.

Translating Infinite Jest into Portuguese

Just figuring out the title was very complex, although the translator says it took him only a year to do.

GS: In the European Portuguese translation, the title is rendered as Piada Infinita, while you translate it as Graça Infinita. Explain. Doesn’t graça have mystical overtones, in the sense of religious grace?

coverCWG: Well, that’s the one I was afraid of…So here goes. First, there is the question of Brazilian versus European usage. Both piada and graça refer to jokes, or anything that is funny. But graça also has an extended meaning cognate with English “grace,” both . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The first sentence of Underworld . . .

. . . was actually the last one Don DeLillo wrote, and he had a devil of a time doing it. That and more at this fascinating look at annotations DeLillo made to a copy of Underworld for a charity auction.

DeLillo was given the option of annotating “Underworld” or “Americana,” but felt that his distance from the latter was too great. “I have fairly clear recollections of writing the book—the room, the desk, the painting on the wall, the feeling that after two years of work (of an eventual four years) I now considered myself a . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Critic’s Task

Adelle Waldman may very well be an excellent novelist (I haven’t read her work, but I know people who say great things about The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.), but in this essay she hasn’t contributed any original or otherwise worthwhile insights on the novel as a form.

I understand the temptation (and pressure) for a place like The New Yorker to have people like Waldman write essays like this, but perhaps from time to time they would turn to the less glamorous, but perhaps more substantive, realm of professional critics for such tasks.

On Novelistic Greatness

The prose here is a little overwrought (mostly on Giraldi’s side), and I find the Melville comparison a stretch, but all in all a good discussion of John Williams in the LARB.

And I couldn’t agree more about Augustus. You ask if Stoner can claim some of the same strengths as Augustus and I think it can, yes, to a point: it’s a beautiful book, beautifully written and modulated, perfectly controlled, deeply felt. Both Morris Dickstein and Steve Almond have written that it’s not only a beautiful novel but a great one, and I differ slightly with . . . continue reading, and add your comments

On Modiano

The Scotsman has a review of the latest of Modiano’s books to arrive in English, Suspended Sentences. It’s a good review, although this seems a bit harsh to me.

Should Modiano have won the Nobel against Gunter Grass, Thomas Pynchon, Marilynne Robinson, or A S Byatt? That is a question for the Stockholm unelected decideders to decide. I am glad to have read Modiano now, and will read his past and future books, but it seems as if his small canvas and personal obsessions – bad Dads, absent Mums, lost brothers – make his work strangely . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Tom McCarthy on Gravity’s Rainbow

Some interesting observations here.

Then there’s the hoary old Great American Novel question: Might this be it? It seems to me the question is a red herring, since the Great American Novel (like democracy for Derrida) is something that is always and inherently to-come. But I would have no qualms about staking this book’s claim to be the Great German Novel; not in the sense, obviously, of being the best novel written by a German, but rather as a work in which the historical trajectory of German literary culture — the progression through Idealism and Romanticism to . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Real-Life Stories from the Book Trade

And people say print is dead.

The Basses have also tapped into New York’s great subsidizing resource: the global rich. If you’ve bought $15 million worth of living space on Park Avenue, it probably has a library, so what’s another $80,000 to fill those shelves? Make a call to the Strand with a few suggestions — “sports, business, art” — and a truckful of well-chosen, excellent-condition books will arrive. (Fred recalls that when Ron Perelman bought his estate on the East End from the late artist Alfonso Ossorio, the Strand had just cleared out Ossorio’s library; Perelman . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Literchoor Is My Beat

The past couple of weeks I have been plowing through Literchoor Is My Beat, Ian S. MacNiven’s excellent biography of New Directions founder James Laughlin. Although Laughlin is the clear subject of this book, it also doubles of a sort of history of a certain era/school of publishing. This is a hugely inspiring, educational read, and it should be required for anyone who is involved with literary publishing.

A couple of the things I love about this book: first, all of the crazy facts that one discovers, or is reminded of, while reading it. Like, for instance, . . . continue reading, and add your comments

“I write because I hate. A lot. Hard.”

At Full-Stop, Ryu Spaeth has a pretty good essay on William H. Gass, jumping off from NYRB Classics’s reissue of In the Heart of the Heart of the Country. The essay is a pretty good discussion of the fact that Gass inspired a lot of very passionate opinion, both good and bad, oftentimes in the same reader.

I’m decidedly one of the mixed Gassians. There’s no doubt that he’s been a sensitive reader and critic, and a person who has popularized a number of writers who might not still be read but for his critical energies. And . . . continue reading, and add your comments