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

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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
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  • 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 […]

Reading Resolutions 2009: John Lingan

(John Lingan is a frequent contributor to The Quarterly Conversation. In the Winter issue, he reconsidered William Gaddis’s novels The Recognitions and J R through the lens of work.)

See all of TQC’s Reading Resolutions here.

A number of my most rewarding reads of 2008 were total surprises, but I plan to follow their lead into ’09. First, my inaugural encounters with Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem (A Scanner Darkly and Solaris, respectively) led me to work backwards and revisit some of H.G. Wells’ early novels, which I loved as a kid. These were all exciting enough that I’ll be making a concerted effort to belatedly get into science fiction (I suppose I should be calling it "sf"?) this year. Looking at the bookshelf, it seems I’ll be starting with The Left Hand of Darkness, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and James Blish’s Cities in Flight tetralogy. Obvious choices, sure, but I’m a neophyte here and have some catching up to do. Recommendations welcome.

I also started both Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Loren Eiseley’s The Invisible Pyramid purely by pulling them off different shelves on a whim. The former is as canonized as the latter is obscure, but both are the kind of meditative, morally urgent writing that I find myself desiring more and more these days. Leopold was a naturalist and outdoorsman and Eiseley was a scientist, but they both used the natural world and man’s destruction of it as a jumping-off point for nearly Montaigne-like (in both scope and aesthetic achievement) pronouncements on greater themes. With those two (and bits of William Vollmann’s The Atlas) as my inspiration, I’ll be searching out more nature/travel nonfiction writing, starting with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Apsley Cherry Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World, and, if I’m up for the attention-span challenge Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West.

Happy reading to everyone in the new year.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Reading Resolutions 2009: Scott Esposito (Scott Esposito edits The Quarterly Conversation.) See all of TQC’s Reading Resolutions here. My reading is fairly haphazard, and that’s the way I like it....
  2. Reading Resolutions 2009: Scott Bryan Wilson (Scott Bryan Wilson is a contributing editor to The Quarterly Conversation. He most recently reviewed Tranquility by Attila Bartis.) See all of TQC’s Reading Resolutions...
  3. Friday Column: Reading Resolutions I’m not too big on New Years resolutions, but the start of a new year seems as good a time as any to take stock...
  4. Friday Column: Reading Resolutions 2008 A good reader, I think, is one who is always pushing herself forward; or, rather, is a reader who is being pulled forward by...
  5. Screen Reading Vs. Book Reading The New Atlantis has a provocative article that comes very close to asserting that screen reading isn’t reading in the traditional sense. The piece starts...

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6 comments to Reading Resolutions 2009: John Lingan

  • Jeff Carroll

    I quite enjoyed your recent article on Gaddis. As a consumer of both literary and science fiction novels, I hope I can repay you with recommendations. With Lem and Dick, you’ve certainly started well. Here are some others that you might find appealing.
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
    Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
    River of Gods by Ian McDonald
    Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
    Hyperion/The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (which you may already have read.)
    Thanks!

  • DC N

    I would recommend anything by Gene Wolfe, especially the Book of the News Sun and the Book of the Long Sun. Nabokov/Borges inspired stuff.

  • I have indeed read most of that Borges collection, as well as the Huxley, but the rest are all well noted and appreciated. I’ll have to put in a shameless plug for the website I edit, as we featured an article about Gene Wolfe a while back that made me want to read his stuff very much.
    Happy New year and thanks for reading.

  • Justus

    I was very, very disappointed by Cities in Flight. I know it is well reviewed on Amazon, a fact that I find unaccountable. A large part of is that it tries to hard to stretch the Oklahoma dust bowl train hobo metaphor, e.g. the Okie bindlestiff cities.
    Huh, looks like (thanks google!) I actually wrote an Amazon.com review for it several years ago: http://www.amazon.com/review/product/1585676020
    Some older scifi that I thought held up reasonably well: Day of the Triffids, The Space Merchants, The Stars My Destination, The Man Who Folder Himself, Behold The Man, Rogue Moon.

  • I second the recommendations of The Sparrow, Perdido Street Station, River of Gods, The Space Merchants, and The Stars My Destination. Also Wyndham, though The Kraken Wakes or The Chrysalids would be my picks. Also M. John Harrison’s Light, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge (or Red Mars), Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others, James Tiptree Jr’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, and Geoff Ryman’s The Child Garden.

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