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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.

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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 Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

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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