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

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.


  • 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 […]

Life Big Read: Reckoning With Perec

I’ve been greatly enjoying reading everyone’s responses to Life A User’s Manual, and if you haven’t done so yet I urge you to register your opinion, regardless of it you read it during the Big Read or at some other point in the past. I’d like to talk about one point that’s come up a number of times in a number of ways–people are largely dividing the book into “stories” and “descriptions,” which is a fair enough way to roughly group the material in Life. I think that virtually everyone likes the stories, and with good reason . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: The End

stopwatch

Per the schedule, we should all be done with Life A User’s Manual this week. How many of you made it to the end, how many of you didn’t, and why did you or didn’t you? I’m curious to know specifically why this book did or did not work for you, because it seems to divide reader-friends of mine like few others . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Popular Amazon Purchases, January – April 2011

As I do every so often on this site, time to run down popular purchases made on Amazon by readers of Conversational Reading. (For previous reader faves, see here.) Here we go, in order to sales rank . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read Question Thread 5

Incontro con Italo Calvino

So here’s a couple of things for you to ponder. Number one, now that we’ve gotten through most of the book, I want to return to one of the very first questions we brought up–do the constraints matter to you or not? . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read Question Thread 4

From the Operation Paperclip Wikipedia page

This week concurrently with Life A User’s Manual I’ve been reading Beckett’s trilogy starting with Molloy, and I noticed this interesting coincidence of thoughts. They deal with satisfaction, meaning, and hope, items that are certainly of central importance to Perec’s book. My emphasis in both quotes. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: Words as Things

anamorphosis

For various reasons, during this week’s reading I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between things and words. Part of this, I’m convinced, is my concurrent reading of the recent book The Information by James Gleick, which is all about the history of language as a medium of information communication and storage. But I also think that my thoughts about things vis a vis words (and vice versa) has to do with this week’s subject-matter. There just seems to be a lot about objects that are heavily reliant on words for their substance, or words that are objects in and of themselves. As to the latter, I think the best example we have is Cinoc’s dictionary of lost words [329 - 330]. Here we see words as things that can be . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read Question Thread 3

crossword

Give us your questions and thoughts right here. For my own part, you may have noticed that I didn’t do some summarizing thoughts + a poll last Friday like I usually do. Reason being, I was out of town camping in the woods. But that experience did give me an interesting perspective on Life A User’s Manual. Of course whenever you go camping you have to build a fire, and whenever you build a fire you enter into one of the strangest, most human experiences possible. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: The Best Critic of a Writer . . .

. . . is another writer. And thus I have taken Stephen Mitchelmore’s advice and checked in on Gabriel Josipovici’s sage critique of Life A User’s Manual. I encourage you all to do the same, although it will take a trip to your local library. Here’s the citation: . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read Question Thread 2

perec-stamp

Give me your questions, your answers for this week’s reading. And I’d like to pull this from last week’s question thread . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Life Big Read: A Better Mousetrap

mousetrap

As I read this week’s section, I felt that what was most coming though was the idea of quests that become traps. I first noticed this in that quote about Bartlebooth that I mentioned earlier this week and which I will reproduce here:

That’s what struck Valene the most, his gaze which did not manage to meet his own, as if Bartlebooth had sought to look behind his head, had wanted to pierce his head to reach beyond it in the neutral asylum of the stairwell with it’s trompe-loeil decorations mimicking old marbling and its staff skirting board made to resemble wood panelling. There was in that avoiding look something more violent than a void, something that was not merely pride or hatred, but almost panic, something like a mad hope, like an appeal for help, like a signal of distress. [142]

We also see this trope in the quest-stories that Perec tells, most notably in the utterly bizarre one about the nanny . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments