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 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 […]

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.