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

You Say

  • Neil G: Think of how less juvenile Marilynne Robinson's writing woul
  • Padraic: Funny, I had no idea Phillip Roth grew up in the Midwest...
  • Ryan Ries: Yeah, what exactly does the Midwestern thing mean? It appea
  • Bernie: Whoa now, mind your Midwestern readers there...
  • Gs: There seems to me an important facet of fiction revealed in
  • David Long: This is a list I posted a few days ago: 25 REASONS TO THA
  • Padraic: I think Saramango gives Coetzee a pretty good run for most a

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.

  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    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
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • 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 […]

Quarterly Conversation Issue 36

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


Césaire at Mid-Century

Césaire at Mid-Century

Much if not all of Césaire’s work has been available in English for many decades, but several recent re-releases and new editions of his works draw fresh attention to his writing and legacy. This August will in fact mark seventy-five years since the first publication of “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land,” an anniversary that coincides more or less exactly with the publication by Archipelago Books of Return to My Native Land. This translation was first completed by Anna Bostock and John Berger for Penguin in 1968, appearing in 1969. Wesleyan University Press has also brought out two bilingual scholarly editions of Césaire’s work, The Original 1939 Notebook of a Return to the Native Land and Solar Throat Slashed: The Unexpurgated 1948 Edition, both translated and introduced by A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman. The numerous cuts and revisions Césaire made to these texts are an especially interesting aspect of his development as a poet and politician. These books offer a new vantage point on his legacy, and, I predict, will be of particular interest to readers of avant-garde poetry and scholars of postcolonialism, race, and identity politics.

On the Letters of David Markson

On the Letters of David Markson

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 nightmare—even after he’d said “I will will will see you when you’re here,” and committed to a date, time, and place, he would often cancel at the last minute, citing one or more of his myriad illnesses, his anxiety over the pending results of medical tests, or even inclement weather. When we did meet, either at a restaurant in the Village or at his apartment, he was voluble and self-deprecating, full of anecdotes and charm. It was hard to imagine such a talkative, friendly, and funny man hiding himself away as he supposedly did, but even by his own account he was a hermit, a man who “did not even get to [his] granddaughter’s third birthday, alas,” so who was I to refute the claim?

The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland

The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland

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, this time for the Penguin Classics series. Rawlinson and de Selincourt are mountains on the terrain Holland is entering: countless readers who love Herodotus came to that love through one of those two translations, and any version that seeks to join their ranks must take their measure. Will the Holland Herodotus be for the 21st century what the Rawlinson was for the 19th and the de Selincourt for the 20th?

Red or Dead by David Peace

Red or Dead by David Peace

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 terrain separating one social order from another. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Red or Dead is that it invokes all of this while remaining resolutely a book about football scores and tournament results.



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).


Storm Still by Peter Handke

Storm Still by Peter Handke

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 own matrilineal forebears—whose members are either driven from their home, psychologically traumatized, or killed during the agonizing events of the Second World War. The central action of the story is concerned with the family’s involvement in the Slovene Partisan resistance to the Nazis. But the plot largely plays a secondary role, serving as a background against which the family’s endeavor to maintain its ethnic identity takes precedence. Though this text is his first to deal almost exclusively with the resistance, Handke had already offered a moving portrayal of his relationship with his Slovenian mother in the 1982 novel A Sorrow Beyond Dreams (Wunschloses Unglück), and the political repression of the Carinthian Slovenes had already been touched on several times in earlier works.

Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones

Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones

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 slowly and inexorably invaded me, little by little, like the sea.” Dones has worked as an interpreter for foreign tourists and as a literary translator of poetry. She has navigated between Italian and Albanian (and sometimes English) for most of her life, and she is deeply aware of the strain and discomfort of moving across languages. Her constant mindfulness of the struggles of inter-lingual shifts underpins every moment of this tight, utterly original story.

Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue

Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue

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 handle, and the spectacle of the bullfight itself becomes a catalyst for Tsugami’s struggle with what his lover, Sakiko, calls his “unsavory side”. Like much of the best Japanese fiction of its era, Bullfight is a marvel of compression. Its 124 pages form a subtly crafted microcosm of a nation coming to terms with the legacy of war.

Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz

Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz

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 to see the sights, world war breaks out. The natural, dutiful response is to pile back aboard with your countrymen and head home to Europe. You line up on the dock with your bags and wait. Then, something—a big something—makes you turn around. You leave your group and slip through the crowd and into the streets, never to see Poland again. So began the self-imposed exile of Witold Gombrowicz.

Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan

Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan

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 Optimist, in 2004, one’s pleasure was tempered by the wish that Mehigan had shown off a little more, strutted his content as much as he had his technical mastery. The poems were almost too careful and too prematurely mature—granted, qualities rare and gratifying in poets of any age. In the first lines of that collection’s first poem, “Promenade,” Mehigan matter-of-factly announced his project: “This is the brief departure from the norm / that celebrates the norm.” No pyrotechnics, no obligatory transgressive gestures, no mimicking of madness.

Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood

Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood

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 beginning just before World War I and ending with the coming of World War II (the 1920s in particular representing the truest efflorescence of modernism). Anyone who has taken a college literature course knows that the English department (and literary study more broadly) organizes itself using these sorts of historical designations, but this way of understanding literary history has become so pervasive that probably few readers regard it as an especially “academic” assumption.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Issue 19 of The Quarterly Conversation Before we get to the table of contents, everyone check out The Quarterly Conversation’s new blog, The Constant Conversation. There you’ll find that we’ve pulled...
  2. Issue 20 of The Quarterly Conversation Issue 20 here. Full table of contents after the jump. . . . continue reading, and add your comments...
  3. The Quarterly Conversation Issue 21 Here's the Fall 2010 issue. . . . continue reading, and add your comments...
  4. The Quarterly Conversation Issue 23 The Quarterly Conversation Issue 23 table of contents . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments...
  5. The Quarterly Conversation Issue 25 What’s Next Isn’t the Point: Philip Roth in Age By Ben Jeffery Since the deaths of Heller, Vonnegut, Updike, Mailer, Bellow, and Salinger, to...

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

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>