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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • 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 […]

Recently Received: Don Juan by Peter Handke and Translation Is a Love Affair by Jacques Poulin

Peter-handke Peter Handke is an author I’ve long meant to read. His novel Don Juan: His Own Version is forthcoming from FSG in February and recently arrived at my doorstep. I also managed to snag a copy of his novel Across at the SF Public Library’s gigantic used book sale, which (the book) I’ve been told is one of his best.

As to Don Juan, the Complete Review has reviewed it:

Don Juan neatly plays with that inherent contradiction of fiction: its absolutism — a complete and exclusive world rendered in mere words — which neverthless can’t eliminate the possibility of countless similar, dissimilar, and even contradictory other-worlds. A novel can end with a period on the final page, yet finality (and literal truth) are illusory.

That’s about all the review coverage I can find in English, thus far.

Translation-Is-a-Love-Affair I also recently received a copy of the wonderfully titled book Translation is a Love Affair from Archipelago (published in October).

Here’s a bit from a short review at The Moose and the Gripes:

Here the primary character is a woman named Marine. She works as a translator, sometimes “tormented by the groundless fear that [she is] living the life of a parasite.” She has recently met and began translating the work of Monsieur Waterman, an older and very established French Canadian writer. He has given her a place to live while she works on his translations.

And another review by Steven G. Kellman:

While studying translation at the University of Geneva, Marine acquired a copy of a novel written by a fellow Canadian publishing under the nom de plume Jack Waterman (who also happens to be a character in Poulin’s best-known novel, Volkswagen Blues [1984]). Because it is about the Oregon Trail, which she had visited while hitchhiking alone across the US, Marine was especially drawn to the book and longed to translate it into English. When she returns to her native Quebec, Marine encounters Waterman in what Hollywood would call “meet cute.” Standing before the graves of her mother, sister, and grandmother, she encounters an older man reading Ernest Hemingway on a cemetery bench. It is of course Waterman, and Marine, convinced that “If there was a way to get close to someone in this life—of which I was not certain—it might be through translation,” elicits Waterman’s permission to translate his Oregon Trail novel into English. He even sets her up to work in an idyllic chalet on Île d’Orléans, while he labors over les mots justes in the tower he inhabits in nearby Quebec City.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. New Translation of Old Juan Goytisolo I've yet to enjoy the work of Spaniard Juan Goytisolo,although Michael Orthofer's long-standing excitement gives me some reason to check out this author. Right now,...
  2. Recently Received Some of the many. Whoever sent me the cat, get your head examined. Please. ...
  3. Didn’t Realize Juan Villoro Was This Funny If you can read Spanish, this is a pretty hilarious dialog by Mexican journalist and novelist Juan Villoro. My knowledge of Villoro has been shaped...
  4. Recently Published: Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin was published on July 1 from City Lights books. I mentioned the author and book last week here. An...
  5. Never Heard of Juan Rulfo Slate gives some attention to Pedro Paramo, oddly claiming that it’s an largely undiscovered book. In Latin America, he eventually came to be considered canonical,...

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