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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  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
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  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
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  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
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  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
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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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