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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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  • Paul: Vanessa Place's 'La Medusa' seems like an American authored
  • Lance: I agree with you about the state of American fiction and I b

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: Ryan Call

(Ryan Call is af requent contributor to The Quarterly Conversation. He most recently reviewed boring boring boring boring boring boring boring by Zach Plague.)

See all of TQC’s Reading Resolutions here.

Usually my reading list is determined by what projects I’m currently working on: fiction, reviews, course planning, and so on. In the past, I’ve tried to have several kinds of books going at once: a classic, a contemporary, and a book of nonfiction. Now, for example, I’m slowly reading Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino, Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler (forthcoming Featherproof Books), and The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather. Weather has worked its way into my writing recently, so those sorts of books have been helpful to look at, to get a sense for how others write about weather, how weather feels on the page, the nature of it.

But this coming year, I’m going to add a fourth category, as there’s a possibility that I’ll be going on a family vacation to Russia this summer. I haven’t read much Russian literature at all, aside from Anna Karenina, Notes from Underground, and the stories of Chekhov and Gogol, so I think now more than ever is a good time to introduce myself to some of the Russian greats.

Below is my perhaps too ambitious list; whether or not I follow it depends on how well my next semester moves along. And I realize that these selections are in no way new or surprising to a well-read audience of TQC readers, so I welcome any suggestions you might have.

Eugene Onegin by Aleksander Pushkin
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
St. Petersburg by Andrei Biely
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Reading Resolutions 2009: Lauren Elkin (Lauren Elkin most recently wrote for The Quarterly Conversation on the French artist and writer Claude Cahun.) See all of TQC’s Reading Resolutions here. First...
  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. Reading Resolutions 2009: Sacha Arnold (Sacha Arnold is a senior editor of The Quarterly Conversation. His most recent piece was on the novelist Carter Scholz.) See all of TQC’s Reading...
  4. 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...
  5. 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....

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5 comments to Reading Resolutions 2009: Ryan Call

  • Good list. In particular I love Doctor Zhivago (and plan to re-read it this year) and Dead Souls. When you get to War and Peace, I suggest you read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation. In fact that goes for Crime and Punishment too. I’d also suggest adding a few more:
    * Master and Margerita by Mikhail Bulgakov
    * Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman
    * Cancer Ward by Solzhenitsyn
    * Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin
    Enjoy your trip to Russia, and your exploration of Russian literature.

  • An impressive list, to be sure. I might skip War and Peace, and read “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” instead, or read both depending on how much time you have.
    I’d also try and cram “The Brothers Karamazov” in there, as it is well worth the effort.
    Oh, and “A Hero of our Time” by Lermontov is pretty great too. Happy reading, and enjoy your trip!

  • Travis Godsoe

    There are some great ones on that list, including a couple of my absolute favorites, like Cosmicomics and Crime and Punishment (second the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation; I wore out the Everyman’s Library copy, carrying it around on the subway and feeling moody, like I should be wearing a shabby Russian coat all the while.) I also second adding The Master and Margarita to the list, and while Biely is very worth a peek, you might find it a bit of a slog to get through St. Petersburg. I found it more interesting to read Nabokov’s thoughts on Biely than to read his work itself. Maybe throw A Hero of Our Time in instead.

  • Great list. I read seven of the Russian novels in one class, Russian Literature in Translation, that I took 38 years ago — with a prof who’d been a Cold War CIA agent stationed in the USSR, really right-wing at a time when we were all radicals, but one of the best courses I ever took. Two years later, I took Dostoevsky in Translation and we read about a dozen books.
    I’d also recommend “Oblomov” and “A Hero of Our Time,” though.

  • ryan call

    hey thanks everyone for the suggestions. ive since deviated a little from the list: i read the idiot, am in the middle of brothers karamazov, and will read oblomov next. its been very dostoevsky heavy, which is great, but i hope to expand soon.

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