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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

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Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

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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 […]

That Other Internet Behemoth

Very interesting article in the New York Review about Google. I did not know this:

In 2008 the advertising on Google’s search engine was responsible for 98 percent of the company’s $22 billion in revenue, and while Google refuses to provide more recent percentages, the company’s 2009 revenue of $23.6 billion suggests that little has changed.

So basically, the biggest, most dominant, most terrifying company to come out of the newest medium since books makes all its money off advertising. If I were the owner of a newspaper, I’d take notice of this. Effective ads, and not pay-walls, is the future of the Internet.

And as to that ad technology, Google essentially stole it:

Back in the early 2000s, though, another company, Overture, which was far more focused than Google on making money online, had already developed such a system. Google copied much of the system from Overture in 2001; Overture sued Google in 2002; and Overture was itself bought by Yahoo in 2003. Yahoo settled the lawsuit against Google out of court for $275 million in 2004, and the system, modified over time, still provides the vast majority of Google’s billions of dollars in revenues.

Also interesting to see that Yahoo had the chance to be Google, but declined, thinking it would be better off being Yahoo. When Google tried to sell its superior search technology to Google,

[The Yahoo founders] were impressed with [Google’s] search engine. Very impressed, actually; their concern was that it was too good…. The more relevant the results of a search were, the fewer [pages] users would experience before leaving Yahoo. Instead of ten pages, they might see just a couple, and that would deflate the number of page views Yahoo sold advertisers.

And users soon decamped from Yahoo to Google for the better search technology. D’oh! Although this is a nice story for those of us who choose to focus on quality over pageviews.

Also some interesting points about where Google stands on net neutrality. This should frighten a lot of people:

More importantly, the iPhone, the iPad, as well as the whole gamut of mobile devices that run Google’s own Android operating system, have led many users to access the Internet through wireless devices rather than through cable or phone lines. It is not hard to imagine a future in which many users give up their home Internet connections—much as many have abandoned their “land line” telephones—and gain online access exclusively through wireless devices. But Google, in its joint statement with Verizon, dropped its support for net neutrality for wireless devices. Instead of insisting that the rapid expansion of wireless Internet access should make net neutrality all the more essential, Google executives claimed, in corporate-speak, that the “nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace” would make the application of the principle of net neutrality premature.

And the things I’m hearing out of the FCC on net neutrality do not suggest that it will push back against this sort of behavior. If this keeps up, it seems likely that the Internet will go the way of film and radio–media that started out more or less democratic and practiced by extremely large groups but that eventually became dominated by a few major players.

And then there’s this:

In addition, these personalized ads will become more pervasive, allowing advertisers to coordinate campaigns across a single user’s computer, e-reader, and cell phone, as well as the many other devices that are now being built with wireless connections, such as radios, TVs, watches, and cars. With the help of a highly efficient data clearinghouse, marketers will be able to update these campaigns instantaneously, based on such factors as the sites that we visit, the searches we make, and the places we go.

The ability to target a tightly knit group, such as a circle of friends or a family, has been of particular interest to marketers. Irwin Gotlieb, the CEO of GroupM, the largest advertising agency in the world, relates one example to Auletta: “Take disposable diapers. Should you just market to pregnant women? I would argue that maybe the grandmother has significant influence.” Thus if a daughter-in-law becomes pregnant and searches on Google for baby blogs, or looks at strollers on Amazon, the grandmother-to-be—whose relationship to her daughter-in-law could be discovered through Facebook, or perhaps through the social networking service Google is reported to be working on—may begin to notice a remarkable increase in diaper ads not only on the websites she visits but also, as more and more devices become tied together through wireless connections, over her radio, on her television, possibly on her toaster, and certainly on her cell phone, which, following another of Gotlieb’s suggestions, might start flashing with coupons for diapers when, through the phone’s location features, a marketer is made aware that she has walked into a supermarket or drugstore. It’s not hard to imagine a future in which an ill-informed grandmother-to-be might suspect that there will be a new addition to the family, simply by observing changes among the ads she’s served up hour by hour and day by day.

For more on this subject, check out Ken Auletta’s recent book, Googled, on which much of this article is based.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Redefining Fair Use At the Newspaper Association of America conference in San Diego, Google and the AP wrangle over how news can be re-used: “I was surprised that...
  2. More News on Google The Millions has a summary of the issues surrounding the recent conclusion to the Google/copyright court battle. It now seems that Google will become a...
  3. The Internet and Your Ability to Read Okay all you people who think the Internet is turning you into attention-deficit twitchers (in which case, why the hell are you reading this?! save...
  4. The Internet Is Still Rotting Your Brain Though I remain steadfast in my belief that a lot of talk about what the Internet is doing to your brain is alarmist and will...
  5. Google Gives Libraries Price Oversight NYT: In a move that could blunt some of the criticism of Google for its settlement of a lawsuit over its book-scanning project, the company...

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