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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

You Say

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.


  • 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 […]

Sebald Guides From New Directions

Just as I'm finishing up my first reading of Vertigo, New Directions has made available guides to The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn. (via Vertigo)

Once I finish Vertigo (likely this evening), I will only have one more Sebald novel remaining to me, The Emigrants. Few authors will have left me more disappointed upon exhausting their novels than Sebald, although I find it impossible to believe that a second reading of The Rings of Saturn won't prove at least as good as the first.

I say this for two reasons. First, because I read Rings three years ago, when I was a much different reader. I don't think I could possibly approach a book like The Rings of Saturn in the same way now, and combining everything new I would see with everything I've forgotten in the intervening three years would create a very fresh experience.

And second, I also say this because Sebald's four novels are very similar in terms of approach, style, and theme, and so a re-reading of Rings after finishing the other three books would be far, far less naive than my original reading. I think so many things would jump out at me that I missed the first time, and I'm curious to see what phrases my underlining pencil originally managed to alight on.

I'm afraid, though, that re-reading Austerlitz (the second Sebald I read) wouldn't be nearly as fresh of an experience as re-reading Rings, largely because the reasons cited above don't hold for that book. It's strange to say, but from Austerlitz on I've rigorously marked up my Sebalds with a pencil, and I feel so connected to each of his books while I'm reading each that it's difficult to imagine coming back to any one of them and finding something the feels wholly new.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. How Sebald Explains Modernity: J.J. Long’s W.G. Sebald In the introduction to his book on Sebald, W.G. Sebald, J.J. Long rather amorphously states that his intention is to discuss how Sebald’s works deal...
  2. Sebald in the Theater There’s been some talk lately of a Sebald-inspired play called "I-Witness" (seems to be most to do with The Rings of Saturn). Those of you...
  3. W.G. Sebald Essay Will Self has a lengthy essay in The Guardian about how he developed an affinity for W.G. Sebald: So, with such sporadic immersion, you can...
  4. Sebald’s Haphazard Photographs Andrew Seal makes some interesting commentary on how images function to break up the text in Sebald's works: If we can think of the...
  5. Self on Sebald The English Center of PEN has published some notes from a talk Will Self gave on W.G. Sebald, loosely based on the novel he (Self)...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

8 comments to Sebald Guides From New Directions

  • Are you saying you’re disappointed to have finished all Sebald’s novels or that Sebald as a writer has left you disappointed?
    The good news either way (and I really hope it’s the latter) is that The Emigrants is his best (with Austerlitz far below the other three).

  • I meant the former of course. Sorry.

  • I bet you could read Rings a couple of times a year and still not exhaust it. That book is fantastic and–practically–perpetually new….
    I agree with Steve above, also: Austerlitz has its merits but did not impress me as much as the other three. Have you read Campo Santo?

  • Sorry if the wording was confusing. My regret will be that after The Emigrants I will never read another Sebald novel for the first time. Certainly I did not mean to say that I found Sebald disappointing at all.
    My consolation is (in addition to what I wrote about Rings) that there are few authors I’ll be so eager to re-read.
    I have read History of Destruction, but not yet Campo Santo. Certainly I will one day.

  • LML

    I second the notion that Emigrants is the best. I’ve got to stand up for Austerlitz, though. It’s the most conventional of the books on the surface, in that, in keeping with expectation, it builds a portrait of a single novel-sized character while confronting the Holocaust directly. But Sebald is also at his peak, in Austerlitz, in terms of the quality of his observations, the subtle accumulation of detail, lyrical power, and the clarity of his thought. To make his narrative technique work in an extended, continuous, 200+ page format was also no small technical achievement.
    All four of the books work like poems and are built for rereading.

  • DCN

    This is exactly why I have not yet read the Emigrants–I can’t stand the thought that after that I am finished.

  • Buxtorfius

    A few years ago John Banville was asked in the Guardian what he was most looking forward to reading that year. He said, “That impossible thing, a new novel by WG Sebald.” I know exactly how he feels. If it’s any consolation there are passages I return to in all four books, but the one I reread most often is the second story in The Emigrants.
    As well as Campo Santo, the essay On the Natural History of Destruction is very much worth reading too. It makes explicit some of the thinking and research that informs the novels.

  • I’m glad that y’alls like Sebald, n’all, but can you articulate anything clear about what it is that you like/what you think is good about the novels, and why they might be better than other novels?

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>