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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You Say

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
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • 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
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
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  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

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.”