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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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

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Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

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See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    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). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    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 be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    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 […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    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 Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    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, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    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 handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    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 s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    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 ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    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 […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    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 ter […]

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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