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

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 […]

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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