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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.

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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 Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

Ten Essential Southern Novels

For more lists, see this page


A list by Barrett Hathcock, author of the forthcoming novel The Portable Son, from Aqueous Books.

Here is my list of Great Southern Fiction, highly idiosyncratic and incomplete, to be sure. I’m not saying these are the ten best works of southern fiction ever, but they’re certainly a good start. There are many ways to define southern literature—literature written by writers born and/or raised and/or living in the South or fiction set in the South. But I think the most productive definition, and the one employed here, is fiction that’s about the South as a cultural space.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Big Bang. At this point in human history, there is nothing interesting I can say about this book. Just go read it. Though with the release of Twain’s autobiography this year, it’s amazing to realize that he was alive just 100 years ago.

2. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
If it’s not the greatest southern novel of all time, it’s certainly in the top three. Epic in scope and beastly difficult to read, it’s like Infinite Jest in that you just have to submit to the unwieldy bastard. All the work turns out to be worth it. It’s about Thomas Sutpen’s attempt to build a southern dynasty, and Quentin Compson, of The Sound the Fury fame, encounters that dynasty as it goes up in flames. All of the main southern tropes are here: fathers and sons, women and marriage and procreation, a lost white aristocracy, incest, family ties like barbed-wire, and miscegenation. A good book to read over Thanksgiving.

3. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
It’s sort of like the southern version of The Great Gatsby. Loosely modeled after the career of Louisiana governor Huey P. Long, it’s worth it for the fraught love and betrayal between Jack Burden and Anne Stanton. Epic, operatic, frequently overwritten, the novel is the template for all politically engaged southern fiction in the South—politics as populist, oedipal corruption; the misery of the conscientious man to the “man of fact”; and being confused about who your real daddy is.

4. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
The Southern Virginia Woolf—dense and lyrical, concerned with the mind’s moonings, yet obsessed with conversation at the same time. She’s the great regionalist who transcends any constrictions that regionalism might imply. She’s the originally cartographer of the inland empire, though the stories can be proto-Lynchian themselves at times. There is an audio “book” you can download of Welty herself reading three of her best stories from her first collection, A Curtain of Green, originally published in 1941. The stories are: “Petrified Man,” “Why I Live at the P.O.,” and “Powerhouse.” You’ll love it with your mouth. Smooch.

5. The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
The great moral cartoonist of southern literature. Meanly funny and one of the sharpest writers ever. She makes Updike seem vague and cuddly. It’s sad reading this book, though, knowing that it’s the complete stories; O’Connor died of lupus at 39. Only book recommended her where someone loses a fake leg.

6. The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor
The most underrated southern writer. He is more Henry James than Flannery O’Connor, focused on the upper crust of Nashville and Memphis. College friends with Robert Lowell and Allen Tate, Taylor’s stories are wonderfully digressive and circular and exude the verbal joy of a raconteur. The only problem with this book is that it isn’t long enough—literally. He released The Old Forest and Other Stories after this collection, which contains some of his best work; he’s in desperate need of a new expanded omnibus collection to put him in the same league with O’Connor and Welty. Start with “Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time.”

7. Airships by Barry Hannah
Hannah, who died just last March, kept alive the wacky-gothic mode of southern literature for a generation. Another writer’s writer, a secret handshake among many, Hannah can be seen as a stylistic extension of O’Connor, but a cartoonist using darker, more lurid colors, where the violence in the content jumps the fence into the prose itself.

8. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
Binx Bolling—surely one of the best names in 20th century literature—is an angst-filled New Orleans stock-broker who identifies more with movies than his life. Insert “websites” for movies and you’ve basically got a book about all of your friends.

9. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, as well as the movie
I know what you’re thinking, and I wish I didn’t have to include it, but any way you slice it GWtW, first the book and then more pervasively the movie, codified Southern culture in the mass imagination. Whether you enjoy the work sincerely, snicker at it politically, or watch it ironically, Rhett, Scarlett, and I-don’t-know-nothing-about-birthing-babies Prissy have seeped into the culture, become iconic. It’s basically cellular at this point. “Best” here might be translated into most thoroughly influential.

10. Deliverance by James Dickey, as well as the movie
Again, the movie adaptation turns out to be as important as the original source text, as it too has become a cultural touchstone. And though it’s primarily remembered now for the dueling banjos bit and the squeal-like-a-pig bit, I would say that it really capitalized on a Southern fear, that is, the fear of the citified, office-working white male as he goes into the rural outback, where his prehistoric ancestors live. It’s the story of the gentry encountering the ancestors they left behind, and the reason that the squeal-like-a-pig bit is such a still-current joke is because it still reveals a current fear and division.