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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

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.