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

Shop though these links = Support this site


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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    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • 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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  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass 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 Kindly Ones Reviewed at The Complete Review

My copy of this brick arrived this week, and while I intend to give it a fair hearing and read it in full, things like this are complicating my plans:

This massive (just short of a thousand pages in the English (and original French) edition), prix Goncourt-winning epic was certainly one of the most anticipated-by-us titles of 2009, and while we’re not sorry that we worked our way through it — it will be much discussed and reviewed in the months to come (yes, even Sam Tanenhaus and the NYTBR won’t be able to avoid this one), and we’re glad to know what the fuss will be about — and while we were prepared for it not to be a masterpiece (the reviews have been decidedly mixed), we were pretty shocked at what a poor piece of work it is. (At over 3500 words our review is one of the longer ones we’ve ever put up, but it could have been considerably longer: there’s a lot to criticise …..)

Although The Complete Review does roundly criticize The Kindly Ones, it also evoked in me far more interest in this book than did Bookforum’s lukewarm "positive" review.

With the reviews trending either very positive or very negative, and given all of the outrageous stuff chronicled in The Complete Review’s review, It looks like this is shaping up to be a very polarizing book. I’m sure I’ll be registering my opinions at some point, probably not at least for a couple of months.

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10 comments to The Kindly Ones Reviewed at The Complete Review

  • I’ve been following the reviews of this book with interest – they seem to be so polarized -either one loves it or absolutely hates it. I was actually surprised at the Complete Review review – I don’t think the book is a complete mess at all, though certainly has some flaws.
    I can see why it’s controversial and I can see why most of the negative comments revolve around Max’s personal life and how that is conveyed in the novel. I think what readers may be missing is that first of all, this is a fictional novel and not one that is particularly aiming for total realism. Much of the narrative is told while Max is mad or hallucinating (in my opinion, that’s why the two policemen keep showing up in unlikely places – I think they just show up in his mind – they are part of the “furies” that are pursuing him). Let’s not forget that Littell is also framing this story within the Oresteia trilogy – so some of Max’s personal life will mirror that of Orestes. And that can be exaggerated or played with as Joyce did with Bloom. There are lots of unlikely events that happen in Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum too that suspend a reader’s belief. It’s still a great historical novel. As is this. It’s definitely not perfect, there are flaws in some of the passages and the writing, but my first thought on finishing the book was, wow, what a reading EXPERIENCE! It really was unlike anything I’d read before. So agree or disagree, I do hope you take the opportunity to read it and decide for yourself.

  • I agree with Blithe Spirit, particularly from “wow” to “before”.
    By the way, on January 29th The Complete Review (via its blog) announced it had taken delivery of this 975, half-a-million word book. The review appeared on February 5th.

  • Steve,
    I daresay that is a endorsement in and of itself.
    Blithe,
    Actually, while reading TCR’s review, I thought of The Tin Drum, as the simultaneous real/unrealism definitely seemed in the tradition of that book. And I did love TTD . . .

  • It’s certainly not going to be to everyone’s taste – but in the midst of so much fiction that reads the same, this was certainly original and visceral and lately, that’s what I’m looking for in fiction, and incidentally why I’ve been turning so much to international fiction in translation.

  • I thought the Complete Review’s review of The Kindly Ones revealed more about the reviewer’s comfort levels than it did about the book. And the grounds on which the reviewer rejects it– he didn’t like the main character and couldn’t identify with him– is a thoroughly amateur basis on which to judge a book.
    “Even a figure who revels in causing others pain and suffering would have been more plausible and hence also more compelling. Aue is just a freak.”
    Does a figure have to be plausible in order to be compelling? Is The Story of an Eye plausible? Or A Clockwork Orange?

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