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 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 […]

Terra Nostra Is Not The Carlos Fuentes I Thought I Knew

Terra-nostra As far as I know Carlos Fuentes, he's a writer of realist, politically aware narratives that partake in a modernist ethic. True, he's clearly innovative when it comes to style, but in terms of narrative he decidedly keeps things in the camp of the real.

So, 30 pages into Terra Nostra the Louvre is transparent, the Seine is boiling, six-toed infants are being born. Now I understand why they call this book the last great success of the Latin American Boom. (And as you can see by the image to the left, I was fortunate enough to acquire a copy of the edition with the ugliest cover in the history of the Boom.)

Admittedly, I'm only 30 pages into a book that's nearly 800 pages in length, but I'm kind of liking the magical realism edition of Carlos Fuentes. Definitely curious to see where he goes with this.

And while I'm writing about authors of a Fuentesian ilk, I might as well note that Season of Ash by Jorge Volpi sounds like my next great Latin American read. The back copy on this book bills it as Carlos Fuentes meets Richard Powers (and, indeed, the book comes packaged with a rave from the former). Thumbing through it, it kind of looks like one of those grand European narratives of historical unification . . . something along the lines of The Discovery of Heaven, or Omega Minor, with (dare I say it) a hint of Pynchon.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Fuentes’ List of Upcoming Mexican Writers At Paris's annual Book Salon, Carlos Fuentes presented a list of five upcoming Mexican writers. They are Jorge Volpi, Ignacio Padilla, Pedro Angel Palou, Cristina...
  2. Why Did Carlos Say It?: Las Batallas en El Desierto / The Battles in the Desert Video (This is the first in a recurring series that I am calling the Latin American Bookshelf. As my reading comes to be more and...
  3. Fuentes’ First Novel El Pais is reporting on a commemorative   edition of Carlos Fuentes’ first novel, La región más transparente, (Where the Air Is Clear in English) published...
  4. New Edition of Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s “Cronicas” A Spanish-language collection of Mexican author Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s creative nonfiction has recently been published by what I believe is Spanish novelist Javier Marias’s press (Reino...
  5. New CONTEXT As noted by many blogs last week, there’s a new CONTEXT online. Of interest (among other things) is an interview with Eloy Urroz and an...

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5 comments to Terra Nostra Is Not The Carlos Fuentes I Thought I Knew

  • Joseph Laizure

    I just started rereading The Discovery of Heaven, thinking “why isn’t there more with this much scope, facility, and fun?” The description of Season of Ash in the Open Letters catalog sounds awesome. Thanks for pointing it out, Scott!

  • It took me a while to figure out which one was Season of Ash. I’ve read it in Spanish and liked it, but it wasn’t a great read. A lot more closer to the latter Fuentes than Powers, and not a hint of Pynchon anywhere. Nonetheless it is a very enjoyable book.

  • Matt

    Did all of the Gass inspire you to read Terra Nostra?

  • Matt,
    In the case of Nostra I’ve had it for a while now & have long meant to read it, although it’s more than likely that earlier readings of Gass helped get me interested in Latin American fiction.

  • Just finished (and reviewed) Aura..my first Fuentes…Interesting but left me wishing for larger Sample Size… Those @ Fictional Woods that have read Terra Nostra loved it (not en toto though)

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