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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

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.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Profanity in Blurbs?

Bernhard
The Literary Saloon thinks it's uncovered a can't-miss blurb for any publisher willing to translate Thomas Bernhard's Meine Preise:

While we're not big fans of blurbs we would, however, also urge that the US/UK publisher include one very prominently on the cover of the book — from Maxim Biller's review in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung:

Das Arschloch Thomas Bernhard, und das sage ich, obwohl ich ungern schlecht über Tote rede, das Arschloch Bernhard hat ziemlich sicher nur ein einziges gutes Buch geschrieben. Dieses Buch erscheint erst jetzt, obwohl er es schon 1980 geschrieben hat, und es zeigt, was für ein Arschloch er war

[The asshole Thomas Bernhard -- and I say this even though I dislike speaking ill of the dead -- the asshole Thomas Bernhard, it's fairly certain to say, only wrote a single good book. This book appears only now, even though he already wrote it in 1980, and it demonstrates what an asshole he was.]

This raises an interesting question: undoubtedly this would get some attention, and a large part of the appeal hinges on Biller's use of the term asshole, but would a profane blurb create the right kind of attention or the wrong kind?

I can't say that I can recall ever seeing profanity in a blurb before (not even in a positive sense, like "a fucking good read!"), although Bernhard would seem to be a good choice to break the profanity line. But I do worry . . . if a publisher does go profane, and if it does work out well, will that usher in a new era of potty-mouthed bookcovers?

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Blurbs Charles Isherwood writes a column about how unethical publishers turn bad reviews into good blurbs. Frankly, anyone who buys a book based on a 1-word...
  2. New Thomas Bernhard Via This Space, I learn: German publishing house Suhrkamp has promised a "sensational release" during next year’s Thomas Bernhard year. The publishing house will release...
  3. Blurbs I don’t understand everyone’s obsession with blurbs. We’ve all read books with glowing blurbs that we thought stank. We know they’re nonsense and that there’s...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

6 comments to Profanity in Blurbs?

  • Rachel F

    Slightly milder but similar:
    “I really wanted my second book to be sharp and funny and snide and soulful and brave and heartbreaking and true. Unfortunately, that bitch Ann Leary wrote it first. I’d hate her guts except that I want to be her best friend.” -Cynthia Kaplan, author of Why I’m Like This

  • I can recall one very profane but positive paperback blurb, when Blanche McCrary Boyd called Norman Mailer’s “Harlot’s Ghost” “one of the best fucking novels I’ve ever read.”

  • Check out Forrest Gander’s blurb on the back of the New Directions paperback of Bolaño’s “The Romantic Dogs” — “…With Bolaño we encounter not only ‘fist-fucking’ but ‘feet-fucking’ in a poem that also mentions Pascal, Nazi generals, Shining Path bonfires, and a teenage hooker…” It’s one of my all-time favorite blurbs.

  • Matt,
    Now that’s a real interesting case . . . is it sensationalistic to be quoting profanity from the book itself? Good find.

  • Bruno

    Jim Dodge’s FUP has on its new british edition a quote from The Times that reads “This novel is fupped uck!”. Dunno if that counts.

  • Stefan Tobler

    Blurbs are often annoying prattle. Ditch them or make them memorable I say.
    I liked a gig poster that under the name of the band said “Overrated” – although it turned out that Overrated was the support band.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>