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 […]

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) 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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