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.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Strong Sales for A Naked Singularity

I think anyone who follows this blog with any regularity knows that A Naked Singularity, just released by the University of Chicago Press, began its trip from self-published book to local bestseller thanks to Scott Bryan Wilson’s TQC review.

Local bestseller? you say. Correct. I’ve now learned that the novel has debuted as the sixth bestselling title at Chicago independent bookstore The Book Table. And given that it takes sixth place behind soft-core pornography for suburban housewives and two prestige titles from large New York presses—i.e. titles it’ll be all-but-impossible to beat—I’m essentially calling this the number one slot. In any event, softcore porn and Yiyun Li—esteemed company indeed!—Sergio De La Pava must feel as though he’s made it.

That’s pretty impressive for a book that was an Xlibris title not too long ago. It wil be fun watching just how high this book can climb. And it’s an interesting illustration of how much a solid review and a stellar press can matter in this brave new age of ebooks and rampant experimentation with self-publishing. Having a good press behind you definitely does matter. Make no mistake, this book never would have reached the audience it’s reaching without the hard work of the very savvy people at U of C.

All that said, I suppose now is the fitting time to tell everyone that I’ve decided to make A Naked Singularity the Big Read for the summer. If you recall back to the Life A User’s Manual Read, Naked Singularity came very close to being the big read for that slot. I’ve long thought it would make a great title for this kind of a group read, and, given the book’s mounting success and this site’s involvement in it, now is the obvious time. The read will start in June. Schedule, etc to come soon.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. A Naked Singularity Returns At The Constant Conversation, Scott Bryan Wilson points to another satisfied reader of A Naked Singularity: . . . continue reading, and add your comments...
  2. Even More Naked Singularity I have been informed that A Naked Singularity is now beginning to attract an audience down under--you'll find a review on the blog Known Unknowns,...
  3. Recently Published: A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava A couple weeks ago I got a query from the publisher of A Naked Singularity, who appears to be the wife of the book's...
  4. The Singularity Sue Lange is getting tired of The Singularity. Sort of. The funny thing about The Singularity, to me, is that its definition seems to have...
  5. On Correlating Sales and Quality Nina Siegal has gone through the Publishers Weekly bestseller list since 1900 (I didn't realize PW kept stats this long) and attempted to correlate sales...

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4 comments to Strong Sales for A Naked Singularity

  • Richard

    Before my backslide into Ford Madox Ford yesterday, I just want to note I predicted this a week or two ago. I think it’s a fantastic choice, and I look forward to participating!

  • Richard

    So I’m definitely thinking people didn’t notice you announced the big Summer read in this post–my bet is they saw the title, scanned the first two paragraphs, and got yelled at by their bosses at work for browsing the Internet during work hours. Either that, or there will be an explosion of replies this weekend!

    I’m psyched for this read, though–it looks like an awesome book. I read the first five pages when I picked it up the day it was in stores–and only the fact that I’m smack in the middle of both the new William Boyd and the Andres Neuman prevented me from going any further. Now I have to force myself to wait until June…

  • Neil Griffin

    I’m looking forward to it, too. I was pulling for this one last year, but luckily Perec was a great find.

  • Kyle

    Read this two years ago. Incredible book… except for it’s kind-of-lazy and all-over-the-place last 100 pages.

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