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.


  • [[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 […]

Price Wars Hurt Indies

The Guardian looks at the effects of big box price wars on independent bookstores.

The problem, independent booksellers claim, is that publishers accord huge discounts to bulk buyers such as Amazon and Tesco, but not to anything like the same degree to smaller outlets. So a two-tier system is created, where independents charge more for many titles – they cannot compete with the aggressive price wars engaged in by the giants, and risk going to the wall. And, as the supermarkets increase their market share – from 9% of the book market in 2004 to 12% in 2006, according to the Book Marketing Society – the problem looks likely to grow.

While the savings look good for the consumer, the benefits of these price wars may be short-term at best, according to Jonathan Spencer-Payne, who runs the Peak Bookshop. Independents carry a much greater range of titles, he says, so a greater diversity of authors and books are represented, including traditionally hard-to-shift first novels. "We support publishers with other titles, with the backlist," he says. "The feeling in the independent sector is that publishers aren’t thinking about tomorrow. If independent bookshops disappeared, where would they sell the full range of their books? It would be a terrible indictment on society if one or two sellers sold a limited range of books and they basically picked and chose what people read."

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Used Books DON'T Hurt New Book Sales I can still remember the carping over the ridiculous numbers of used books available at dreaded Amazon.com. "How will we ever sell books any more?"...
  2. Wal-Mart An article in The Book Standard details how Wal-Mart is planning to reach out to (rather than destroy) community businesses it resides next to. Specifically,...
  3. Author Asks Amazon to De-List Him George Walker, anti-Amazon crusader. A children’s author has drawn attention to the plight of independent bookshops by demanding that his book be removed from sale...
  4. Apex Hides the Hurt If you’d like to see what I think of Colson Whitehead’s new novel, feel free to click here. Apex also gets a review in this...
  5. Even Better than the Time The Vending Machine Gave Me Two Mars Bars for the Price of One Holy fuck. The Guardian has really done it. Look here for new short stories and/or novel extracts from like 30 top authors. I can’t believe...

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3 comments to Price Wars Hurt Indies

  • Alex

    Is this actually true? While I’ve often been impressed by the good selections in independent bookstores for their relatively small sizes, it’s almost always been my observation that a Barnes and Noble or Borders (especially those in urban downtowns) will have everything an independent bookstore has and much more. Considering the size multiples involved, I don’t see how they couldn’t. Independent bookstores are good for some things, but I don’t think sheer selection and variety is one of them.

  • Phil

    I feel you may have a bias as at least half of your links lead to amazon. But, a brother gots to eat, as has been undoubtedly proclaimed at some such juncture, or another.

  • In my town the independt definitely beats the variety of the chain in their poetry and literary fiction selection. Besides featuring quite a bit from indie presses, and following blogs that mention titles that may not be hyped by the Globe & Mail, they also carry a decent backlist rather than just the latest and greatest. And they really support local authors (especially for poetry).
    There are a few authors the chain has them beat on like Banville but that’s a combination of the Booker prize and a passionate employee.

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