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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

The Greatest Fiction from Argentina

For more lists, see this page



Ghosts by César Aira


From the Review of Contemporary Fiction:
César Aira is famous for his “constant flight forward”—the author claims to rarely edit his work or otherwise retrace his steps when writing—yet a novel as densely layered and immaculately conceived as Ghosts makes this hard to believe. The book takes place over the course of just one day—December 31, at some point during the late 1980s—and it concerns a Chilean family who lives in an unfinished high-rise in Buenos Aires, where the patriarch and son earn their daily bread as construction men. Although there is a plot about the eldest daughter’s untenable infatuation with the ghosts that haunt the building, the book is better thought of as a series of anecdotes bound together by the lightness of Aira’s prose and his return, again and again, to the enigmatic ghosts (which are never treated as anything but mundane). Ghosts is concerned with boundaries—what separates life from a dream, art from commerce, one year from the next, Argentina from Chile, a human from a ghost, an incomplete building from its surroundings—and as Aira plucks away at the lines of demarcation this playful cautionary tale comes to feel at times very real, and at others like a cosmicomic. To try and pin Ghosts down to just one meaning would be to ignore the robustness of its central metaphors, but it seems fair to say that Aira here is attempting to construct a novel “in which the made and unmade would be indistinct, an art that would be instantaneously real, without ghosts.” He has succeeded in creating an intensely enjoyable book, one that bends between forms and yet feels strangely unified, a novel with the stolidity of concrete and the airiness of an eighth-floor apartment lacking an exterior wall.


The Seven Madmen by Roberto Arlt


From the Publishers Weekly:
“Arlt (1900-1942) was an Argentinian writer of the ’20s and ’30s whose work was unheralded during his lifetime. Now it is recognized as a seminal influence on Argentinian modernism. In translating Arlt’s best-known novel, written in 1929, Caistor notes that he has retained the “incoherencies” of Arlt’s hurried prose, but the power of Arlt’s vision remains strong. The protagonist, Remo Erdosain, is an inventor and a crank. His search for 600 pesos to pay back the sugar company he swindled leads to the kidnapping and supposed murder of his wife’s cousin, Gregorio Barsut. The most sinister of Erdosain’s friends is the Astrologer, a messianic terrorist. One of the Astrologer’s followers, a pimp known as “The Melancholy Thug,” gives Erdosain the money to pay back his employers, but the embezzlement suddenly seems like a minor problem compared to Erdosain’s spiritual deterioration. When Erdosain’s wife runs off with an army captain, he plots with the Astrologer to kidnap and kill Barsut. Erdosain wants revenge, and the Astrologer wants to use Barsut’s money to buy a brothel. As Erdosian’s fantasies blur into reality, we are treated to a world reminiscent of the intense Georg Grosz paintings of sex murderers.”


The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares


The masterpiece among Bioy Casares’ short, intense novels is The Invention of Morel, a book that won raves from Borges (who placed it alongside Franz Kafka’s The Trial), was called “perfect” by Octavio Paz, and inspired one of French cinema’s most infamous movies, Last Year at Marienbad (1961). Though it was published in 1940, the book’s continuing relevance was recently proven when it was featured on Lost — a cameo many viewers perceive as a key to that TV show’s plot. But that doesn’t mean this is a tough tract unfit for quality beach time. . . . Just know that Morel is a poetic evocation of the experience of love, an inquiry into how we know one another, and a still-relevant examination of how technology has changed our relationship with reality.


Borges: Collected Fictions


Jorge Luis Borges has been called the greatest Spanish-language writer of our century. Now for the first time in English, all of Borges’ dazzling fictions are gathered into a single volume, brilliantly translated by Andrew Hurley. From his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity, through his immensely influential collections Ficciones and The Aleph, these enigmatic, elaborate, imaginative inventions display Borges’ talent for turning fiction on its head by playing with form and genre and toying with language. Together these incomparable works comprise the perfect one-volume compendium for all those who have long loved Borges.


Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar


From The Quarterly Conversation:
“The most remarked-on aspect of Hopscotch is its format: the book is split into 56 regular chapters and 99 “expendable” ones. Readers may read straight through the regular chapters (ignoring the expendable ones) or follow numbers left at the end of each chapter telling the reader which one to read next (eventually taking her through all but one of the chapters). A reading of the book in that way would lead the reader thus: Chapter 73 – 1 – 2 – 116 – 3 – 84 – 4 – 71 – 5 – 81 – 74 – 6 – 7- 8, and so on. Although Hopscotch’s format (or rather, Cortazar’s skill in using it) is worthy of the attention and praise it has received, this most noticed feature of the book is but one of its many remarkable innovations. Throughout its 500+ pages, Cortazar’s work is full of typographical, linguistic, and conceptual experiments that add to the book’s appeal while avoiding the tinge of gimmickry.”


The Museum of Eterna’s Novel by Macedonio Fernandez


From The Quarterly Conversation:
“There is an ongoing debate in Argentine literary circles about the extent to which Borges was influenced by Macedonio, an eccentric genius who spent the final three decades of his life drifting through Buenos Aires boardinghouses and country hermitages, absorbed in writing and thinking. Some critics believe that without Macedonio’s influence, the Borges we know would have never existed. Noé Jitrik, who might be described as the dean of academic literary critics in Argentina, said last year in an interview with Buenos Aires’s leading newspaper, Clarín, that “Borges is a product of Macedonio.”


The Past by Alan Pauls

From The Guardian:
“The past, Alan Pauls’ first novel to be translated into English, has arrived with a certain amount of fanfare – including a film adaptation starring Gael Garcia Bernal, an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival and critical comparisons to Proust and Nabokov. Like Proust’s epic, The Past is about memory. A twentysomething Buenos Aires couple, Rimini and Sofia, split up after 12 years together, sharing out friends, possessions and living arrangements. But there is a sticking point: their photographs. Sofia wants desperately to divide up the thousand-plus photos they have; Rimini feels repulsed by the pictures.”


Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig


From Wikipedia:
“Kiss of the Spider Woman (Spanish: El beso de la mujer araña) is a novel by the Argentine writer Manuel Puig. It is considered his most successful.[1] The novel’s form is unusual in that there is no traditional narrative voice, one of the primary features of fiction. It is written in large part as dialogue, without any indication of who is speaking, except for a dash (-) to show a change of speaker. There are also parts of stream of consciousness. What is not written as dialogue or stream of consciousness is written as metafictional government documentation. The conversations that the characters engage in, when not focused on the moment at hand are focused on films that Molina has seen, which act as a form of escape from their environment. Thus we have a main plot, all of the subplots that are involved in that, and four additional mini stories that comprise the novel. The author includes a long series of footnotes on the psychoanalytic theory of homosexuality.”


The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato


From Wikipedia:
“The Tunnel (Spanish: El Túnel) is a dark, psychological novel written by Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato about a deranged porteño painter, Juan Pablo Castel, and his obsession with a woman. The story’s title refers to the symbol for Castel’s emotional and physical isolation from society, which becomes increasingly apparent as Castel proceeds to tell from his jail cell the series of events that enabled him to murder the only person capable of understanding him. Marked by its existential themes, El Túnel received enthusiastic support from Albert Camus and Graham Greene following its publication in 1948.”


The Witness by Juan José Saer


Le Monde: “Saer’s novel combines elements of the haunting metaphysical ambiguity of Jorge Luis Borges’ poetry and Graham Greene’s sensual description of the dark corners of the physical world and the human soul. The evocative imagery and ideas revealed in The Witness are not easily forgotten’ Washington Post ‘Let me make myself clear: The Witness is a great book and the name of its author, Juan Jose Saer, must be added to the list of the best South American writers.”