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

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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.


  • 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 […]

Toibin on Marias and Munoz Molina

In the NYRB.

Marías likes murder. While he has translated Sterne, Faulkner, and Nabokov into Spanish and learned a great deal from them on the way, he has also translated Stevenson, Kipling, and Conrad. Thus the yarn—the adventure story told at length that holds the audience—belongs to him as much as any set of playful narrative voices. At the heart of the trilogy Your Face Tomorrow is a spy story. His novel A Heart So White, which, at one level, is a murder story, may be his best work to date because it offers an ingenious balance . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Tom LeClair on Can’t and Won’t

Somehow I missed Tom LeClair reviewing Lydia Davis’s Can’t and Won’t. At the B&N Review.

“Let be be finale of seem,” says Wallace Stevens in “The Emperor of Ice-Cream.” Davis is celebrated for eschewing or mocking all those old-fashioned fictional conventions of “seem”: words artfully arranged, characters that appear to be people, passages of discourse that seem to be conversation, pages that might be mistaken for a narrative. She is the Empress of Ice-Cream, queen of transient small pleasures served cold. In Can’t and Won’t the Empress is barely clothed with her short shorts. The most distinctive . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Cornell Boxes

Nice review of Gabriel Josipovici’s Hotel Andromeda. At M&L, by David Winters.

How can art address those aspects of life that elude direct expression? In his remarkable book Art Matters, the aesthetic theorist Peter De Bolla describes his encounter with a particular painting (Barnett Newman’s enormous Vir Heroicus Sublimis) whose powerful presence leaves him “struck dumb.” Searching for words to express this unsettling experience, De Bolla poses a series of questions. Firstly, he asks, “how does this painting determine my address to it?” Next, as an aspect of that address, “how does it make me feel?” . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Your Friday Eggers

Holy mother of god, Dave Eggers’ new novel is already out. This sounds bad . . .

Thomas, the novel’s corroded protagonist, methodically kidnaps a handful of people, among them an astronaut, a retired congressman, a grade-school teacher and his own mother. They’re handcuffed to poles in separate buildings at Fort Ord, a decommissioned Northern California Army post. This isn’t a plot, exactly. The story doesn’t turn on the question of whether Thomas and his captives will escape, and Eggers only barely sketches out how they were captured (formaldehyde, etc.). He is just blocking the stage for . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Readers Today Are Idiots with No Attention Span

I really don’t understand the point of things like this. Like a lot of writing of this genre, Tim Parks’s entry starts out reasonably enough, but then quickly veers into “IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO READ ANY MORE” territory. To wit:

Now, on the contrary, every moment of serious reading has to be fought for, planned for. . . . Only yesterday a smart young Ph.D. student told me his supreme goal was to keep himself from checking his email more than once an hour, though he doubted he would achieve such iron discipline in the near future. At . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Digital Humanities

I’m not one to reflexively hate the use of computers and statistical analysis in literary studies. Data and statistics can be as worthwhile a way into a text as any. In my opinion, it comes down to how sensitive a critic is in interpreting the data. As always, it’s all about determining the interesting questions to ask and finding interesting ways to express your chosen answers.

This, of course, makes the digital humanities very different from hard science, where there’s a very clear method to implement and a very narrow leeway for interpreting the results. People who try . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Piketty Isn’t Literary Criticism

Stephen Marche’s LARB essay on the state of the contemporary novel reads as extremely half-baked to me.

To start, it’s full of all sorts of off-base observations, such as:

The narrative forms that thrived in the mid-nineties — minimalism, with its descriptions of poor and rural men; magical realism which incorporated non-Western elements into the traditional English novel; the exotic lyricism of John Berger or Michael Ondaatje — have been pushed to the side

That’s a remarkably strange way to describe magical realism—as an offshoot of the “English novel” instead of a genre of its own that . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Quarterly Conversation Issue 36

Your table of contents after the jump. Or just go here.

Continue reading Quarterly Conversation Issue 36

Quitting Amazon Addendum

Just adding in on the comments here, one reason I will mildly defend Amazon is that it gets the books to people who have no other way to get the books. In a lot of places Amazon (or Barnes & Noble) is the only valid way to get books, which does count for something (and which makes it even worse that they’re warring with Hachette by cutting off access to books).

If you’re lucky enough to have a good indie within your range, they will often custom order books for you at no extra cost to you. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

On “Quitting Amazon”

Over the past few weeks I’ve been “quitting Amazon,” not so much because I think they’re evil, etc, but just because their recent moves have been so incredibly stupid and tone-deaf that’s it’s hard not to react in some way. I already buy most of my books through local stores, so this has been more a matter of going directly to the manufacturer websites of non-book products Amazon sells. I’ve even found that it’s quite easy and helpful to use Amazon to “showroom” items; i.e., to tap into all of the rich base of knowledge and customer . . . continue reading, and add your comments