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.


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  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
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  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
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  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
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The Eastern Aesthetic

Interesting thoughts on the differences between the rise of the Western novel vs the Eastern, from Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading.

Chinese critics have identified over 600 characters in The Scholars, 800 in The Water Margin and the Jin Ping Mei, 975 in The Story of the Stone. And since size is seldom just size—a story with a thousand characters is not like a story with fifty characters, only twenty times bigger; it’s a different story—all this ends up generating a structure which is very unlike the one we are used to in Europe. . . . Preventing developments: that’s the key. Minimizing narrativity. The Story of the Stone is often described as a Chinese Buddenbrooks, and they are certainly both stories of the decline of a great family, but Buddenbrooks covers a half century in five hundred pages, and Stone a dozen years in two thousand pages: and it’s not just a matter of rhythm, here (although that is obviously the case), but of the hierarchy between synchrony and diachrony: Stone has a “horizontal” dominant, where what really matters is not what lies “ahead” of a given event, as in “forward-looking” European prose, but what lies “to the side” of it: all the vibrations that ripple across this immense narrative system—and all the counter-vibrations that try to keep it stable.

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4 comments to The Eastern Aesthetic

  • Just a question, does Moretti know Chinese?

  • P.

    Answer to the above: No. Qualification of answer: Moretti’s shtick is that you need not read these texts at all. This is the difference between ‘distant’ and close reading. According to him and his coterie, there are too many texts for them to be read ‘closely.’ Close reading invariably leads to a canon; canons are unrepresentative; therefore, let’s not read. Which is funny, because he’s a pretty good close reader.

  • Patrick Murtha

    The shtick is disposable, trendy and politically correct – but the methodology has many possible uses, and Moretti himself can be most insightful, as he is here. I’m halfway through the second volume of five in the Penguin edition of “The Story of the Stone,” and I see exactly what Moretti means about the “horizontal dominant.” This is the first classic Chinese novel I have read, and despite any idea that knowing ABOUT it is enough, I wouldn’t wish to have missed one of the greatest reading experiences of my lifetime. It has confirmed in me the intention to read ALL the classic Chinese fiction that is available in English. I am pro-canon, pro-expanding the canon, and pro-looking at everything that isn’t in the canon. This of course means that there are “too many” texts for me to read, but what the heck! It keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.

  • I know his big idea is distant reading. My point is, apart from the translated novels, all he has going is the words of Chinese critics, hardly a rigorous basis to start making comparisons between European and Chinese novels.

    But I’m even more curious about this: if The Story of the Stone has 2000 pages and 975 characters, that’s little more than 2 pages per character. How well developed can these characters be? Is characterization even important at all?

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