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.

  • 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 […]

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.

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