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 […]

Sergio De La Pava, Interviewed

Good stuff.

CJ: So what about a book like Wittgenstein’s Mistress? Do you think that approaches reaching too far with a single tool, or do you think that it works for the subject matter?

SP: I found that book to be perfectly realized. The funny part is, the works that followed, they seemed to essentially try to exploit the same tool kit, and I didn’t find them as successful. I think that what makes Markson successful with WM and the others less so, to just me as a reader, not as a critic, is where the mistress departs from allegory. Where you start to feel that this could be true. That what this woman is experiencing could be the truth, in a way that those other novels never gave you. There’s that bizarre blending of, sure, it could be the ravings of a lunatic, but i don’t think the novel cheats in that way, to tell you that they are the ravings of a lunatic. I think you could read that book in a way that you can just accept that what Kate is telling you is an accurate portrait of what has occurred, and because the novel works that way, to me that is what makes it powerful. Whereas with Readers Block and This Is Not a Novel, it never felt that way, I felt an intrusion at the end. To me they just didn’t work. And it may just be, that when I read WM it felt really innovative and new, and it’s hard to capture that when you pick up the next book and sense that, ‘here come these little aphoristic-type declarations about artists’, and you’re already familiar with it in such a way that you can never fire those neurons again.

CJ: Right. So in one part of Personae, you choose the same scene:

SP: Wait a minute. No that’s not it, the octogenarian is the writer. It has italics under the chapter number I think, so I think we are lead to believe that Helen created that title for that particular document, or whoever did. But that is why is it called Personae, each part is not the ocean. The ocean is the actual work. And that moment is just probably a 55-year old professor or something, impulsively deciding to stop at the beach. I’m not sure if the beach stuff was a reference to Markson, I mean a beach and an ocean? I don’t think there’s any way that he could have patented that.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Personae by Sergio De La Pava Today’s the release day for Personae by Sergio De La Pava, author of A Naked Singularity. I’ll have a review of this eventually in the...
  2. Excerpt from Personae by Sergio De La Pava I'm told that Sergio De La Pava's new novel, Personae, will soon be going up on Amazon. You can currently get it at Xlibris. (If...
  3. Sergio de la Pava Interview Over at their slick new redesigned website, Hermano Cerdo has interviewed Sergio de la Pava, well-known to readers of this site (for more see here...
  4. Sergio De La Pava Wins a PEN Wow. Sergio De La Pava wins PEN’s 2013 first novel award, good for $25,000. This amazing story keeps getting more and more amazing. ...
  5. You Need Another Reason to Love Sergio De La Pava? Here’s one. TN: Franzen wrote an essay describing the reader-writer relationship as either Status based or a Contract model, emphasizing the decision to either err...

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