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
  • ePoetryePoetry

    I don't really think poetry written for print works in the electronic format. You can make an argument that there isn't a whole... »
  • Issue 37 of The Quarterly ConversationIssue 37 of The Quarterly Conversation

    Here it is. If you're the kind that doesn't like to just jump into things, full TOC after the... »
  • The Translation BestsellerThe Translation Bestseller

    I wonder if, given the minuscule amount of translated books published each year, but the relative regularity of a bestseller... »
  • Future LibraryFuture Library

    Cool idea. Edouard Levé would have been a fantastic participant. A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka,... »
  • Juan Jose SaerJuan Jose Saer

    You all should really be reading Juan Jose Saer (if you're not already). His books have a very particular feel . . . I could... »
  • In the ArchipelagoIn the Archipelago

    Jill Schoolman, interviewed at BOMB. Hope everybody reading this in the Bay Area will come out to the event with Scholastique... »
  • How They ThinkHow They Think

    Okay, I know it's wrong to respond to clickbait, but—the thing that pisses me off about this is that it's somehow a... »
  • FlamethrowersFlamethrowers

    It's kind of amazing that the NYRB published Frederick Seidel's lazy review of The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, one of last... »
  • Elena FerranteElena Ferrante

    A few months ago when Knausgaard fever was sweeping these States, I saw some people promulgating the argument that if a woman... »
  • Ahh, the MemoriesAhh, the Memories

    Just reminiscing, but now that we're talking about Mitchell it seems relevant to share the time I watched the Cloud Atlas movie... »

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.


  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]
  • On Gottland by Mariusz Szczygieł September 15, 2014
    Gottland is not a novel, but that proves difficult to remember. The book, playfully subtitled Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia, is technically a work of reportage, and its author, Mariusz Szczygieł, one of Poland’s best-known journalists. Most of Gottland’s tales, however, seem better suited to Soviet science fiction—or even Russian absurdism— […]

Smart Books Only for the Smart People

At the Wall Street Journal, James Hall makes one of the great specious arguments surrounding great literature. Telling us that it’s okay to read bestsellers, he writes:

That’s the beauty of reading for pleasure. When you turn the final page and shut the book, that heady blend of sadness and joy you feel can quickly ripen into a hunger for more. I like to think of bestsellers as a gateway drug. Once you’ve found one you love, books will forever hold a special allure. All comers welcome. No special education required.

OK, that’s actually two specious arguments. I don’t read for any reason other than pleasure, and I don’t know of any reader that I trust and respect that reads for any other reason either. Yes, it’s true that we find it rewarding to learn new things, challenge our assumptions, stretch our grammar, etc, but those things are fundamentally pleasurable experiences. A different pleasure than reading Stephen King—obviously, but a kind of pleasure nonetheless. (Hall isn’t trying to tell us that pleasure can only come in one variety, is he?)

The other baseless argument is that non-bestsellers require “special education.” Right, which, I suppose, is why we encourage teenagers to read Camus, Shakespeare, the Greeks, etc, because they all have that lifetime of reading and learning required to read great literature. Obviously, you can get more our of a book if you have greater context in which to read it, just like you’ll get more out of a baseball game if you understand how the sport works, know the standings/history/etc of the team involved. Pretty much anything you do in the world is like this. But we don’t tell people not to watch Mad Men unless they’ve acquired all that special knowledge of how to watch hour-long cable shows.

The idea that one needs special knowledge to read great literature is ridiculous. Bad on James Hall for perpetuating this myth that keeps readers from trying out great books.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. People Who Don't Know . . . It's quite cool that Larson is giving coverage to a great novel like Zone, but . . . well, where to start with the unpardonable...
  2. Books to Read in 2010 Apropos of my Books to Watch for in 2010 post from last week, I’ve been receiving further suggestions (and finding more of my own picks)....
  3. The Proper Care and Maintenance of Books I do think some publishers could learn something from this. I announced in April that I would be publishing one Kindle book a month for...
  4. Are You Smarter Than Smart Highschoolers? The Blogger SAT Challenge. We’re especially interested in finding out if bloggers, because of their regular practice in short-form writing, might be able to perform...
  5. Selling Translation to the People There are a few obvious reasons behind this. For one, Reza Aslan, the book's editor, is an extremely savvy media guy who is no stranger...

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

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>