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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.

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.


  • 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 […]

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.”