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
  • Marcos Giralt TorrenteMarcos Giralt Torrente

    My piece covering two new translations of books by Marcos Giralt Torrente—Paris and Father and Son: A Lifetime—has just... »
  • A Little Lumpen NovelitaA Little Lumpen Novelita

    The latest Bolaño, reviewed at M&L. In one of the monologues that make up the long middle section of Roberto... »
  • 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... »

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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • 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 […]

Some Words Are Different from Others

In this age when conversational language is increasingly found in the written form, it’s interesting to see how much privilege people still give to the written word. Robert B Silvers, editor of the NYRB:

The NYRB has had a successful blog since 2010, but Silvers believes many new media haven’t yet found their “critical function”. “Just think of the tweet form,” he says, describing tweets as sometimes “apt and to the point” but often “no more than off-hand wise-cracks”. The challenge now is to find a way of reviewing these things, he says, “just as we would bring a critical perspective to bear on other forms of prose”. He pauses, gazing out of the window. “This is a huge … universe of prose,” he says wistfully, “that is simply slipping through the consciousness of time without any systematic or thoughtful criticism.”

The idea of “bringing a critical perspective” to Twitter is ridiculous. Somewhere right this second someone is saying that 99% of all tweets should be forgotten, and they’re absolutely right. Twitter is conversation, it just happens to occur in prose due to the technologies that we’re using to have it, and you would no more want to systematically sift through Twitter babble than you would want to read back through your daily face-to-face interactions and try to discover the hidden readings or scan through all your text messages for the week. But people seem to think there’s some kind of “readability” to transactions on social media because they’re text-based, instead of spoken.

Obviously researchers can and will find ways to sift the Twitter data, just as they have done for decades with conversational language, but this isn’t the kind of literary critical analysis that Silvers is talking about.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. They’re Really Ophelia’s Words Dan considers what must be one of the odder constraints to come out of Oulipo: So: now I come to speak. At last. I will...
  2. Calvino on Words and the Invisible There are those who hold that the word is the way of attaining the substance of the world, the final, unique, and absolute substance. Rather...
  3. Pamuk Redux The Literary Saloon points out that The NYRB has repurposed some material originally written by Orhan Pamuk for The Guardian. (The piece appears in a...
  4. Silvina Ocampo at Words Without Borders Silvina Ocampo is an author who really should be in English but probably won't be. She was Adolfo Bioy Casares' wife (and collaborator), she edited...
  5. Wise Words My interest is in solving the problems presented by writing a book. That’s what stops my brain spinning like a car wheel in the snow,...

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

6 comments to Some Words Are Different from Others

  • PTSmith

    What do you make of the ways that people like Teju Cole are using Twitter?

  • Padraic

    A great point about the persistent interest in printed text. Most of the humanities have long ago abandoned the exclusive focus on printed text in favor or oral and visual texts.

    On the other hand, I’m sure you can say something systematic and critically interesting about Twitter, or Instagram, of Facebook pictures, or the words you overhear on a subway. Much like there has come to be a serious criticism of works of popular culture, and entire conferences devoted to things like Twilight, Battlestar Gallactica, or Mad Men, I could imagine a future for the humanities that does exactly what Silvers says on, say, LeBron James’s Twitter feed.

    What’s needed is a social media Benjamin to start the ball rolling (there probably already are a few candidates…). Now, if someone thinks pop culture studies are ridiculous (there’s a good argument to made!), then I suppose Silvers’s suggestion is just more of the same, but much of the history of modern criticism has been about expanding the definition of what can be analyzed. I would be shocked if there aren’t students in English PhD programs writing dissertations on Facebook and Twitter right now.

  • admin

    I’m not familiar with Teju Cole’s feed, as I found it too aggravating to follow for very long. Szirtes’ is interesting, although, most of the time when I log on to Twitter, that’s not the sort of thing I’m in the mood for. Probably among people who try to use it “creatively,” I’m more interested in the aphorism, the prosaic, or the non sequitur than anything else.

    I think that people can certainly turn the medium to artistic purposes, just as people (e.g. monologists) turn spoken language into an artform. But the idea that all of Twitter is some kind of a text for us to read is, to me, very much to miss the point of what Twitter actually is.

  • Agree. Twitter is the digital variation on postcards, lawns signs, or bumpers stickers. The nearest literary/critical analogies might be Wittgenstein’s tractatus, Neitzsche’s aphorisms, Benjamin’s arcades project—but in all those cases the format unified around the authorial identity, whereas Twitter disperses.

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>