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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    I'm surprised to learn Andres Newman is so young. Also, great overview of his books in English. Andrés Neuman is... »
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    The Complete Review has the details of the future Englishing of our most recent Nobel laureate. And also, sales figures. For... »
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    Issue 38 right here. or TOC after the jump. Features Readings, Fragments,... »
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    Rivka Galchen on the new Kafka bio by Reiner Stach. I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for... »
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    My review of Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano. The most focused of the book’s three diffuse novellas is... »
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    At the NY TImes. I'm currently reading Book 1. Q. You insist on anonymity and yet are developing a cult following,... »
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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

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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    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
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • 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 Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

I finished reading The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira last night and immediately went back and started reading it again. What struck me as I did that was how tightly this novel is composed. What had seemed like incomprehensible or overtly surreal touches on my initial reading now very much made sense as an overall part of Aira’s artistic vision. This is a hard thing to do in any case, but particularly given the formal constraints Aira places on himself when he writes a novel.

The reviews I’ve seen so far focus on the rather clear metafictional agenda Aira lays out in the book (the “miracle cure” is like writing a novel). That’s obviously a part of Miracle Cures, but it seems much too easy for a writer of Aira’s talents, and he belabors the point so much that it’s hard not to be suspicious. What I’m beginning to lean toward is that the book is somehow a deconstruction of performance, a look at how one physically carves a path in this world in harmony with a very rich life of the mind. The book seems to be about the possibility of performance in an increasingly mediated world, and possibly also about the degree to which the protagonist of a novel has control over the narrative.

The best review I’ve read so far of this book is the one in Asymptote.

What Actyn represents is a new hyperreality where everything is connected and everyone is aware of these interconnections, of the constant strain upon their infinite relationships, and the ease of which we can add to them. In this new world, we may still not know that we exist, but the means for convincing ourselves that we do are unprecedented and overwhelming. Like the sound of the ambulance intricately bearing down on the solitary Aira in search of meaning, Dr. Actyn seeks to transform reality by surrounding us with machines that carry on producing more and more increasingly edited layers of reality and encoded meaning, refining our awareness of ourselves so that we become incapable of accepting our existence except through these filters. In contrast, what Dr. Aira already knows is that while the overwhelming totality of existence may be something we cannot escape, we have means of navigating it, of even understanding it, but to do that one needs to abandon addition and embrace subtraction.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Excerpt of The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira Why not go read the new Cesar Aira novel, The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira? BOMB has the first chapter. One day at dawn, Dr....
  2. New Cesar Aira in October It is The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira, translated by the splendid Katherine Silver. This book is listed, along with a bunch new titles, on...
  3. Varamo by Cesar Aira Publishing Next Week The latest translation of Cesar Aira—Varamo—is publishing next week. (Too bad they didn’t pub it this week, then everyone could download it and read it...
  4. Cesar Aira in New Yorker This week’s New Yorker has a new short story by Cesar Aira called “The Musical Brain” (it’s only available for subscribers, but you can find...
  5. Katherine Silver Reading New Cesar Aira Huge props to Litseen for recording the City Lights celebration of New Directions. They’ve got the full video of the entire event, but right here...

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1 comment to The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

  • RJ

    This book–AND The Walk, by Robert Walser–is amazing. I love this write-up, Scott.

    And I know many people are enjoying, and sticking with, The Tunnel. But I’ve read five books over the past two weeks, including Miracle Cures, and am so glad I spent what few non-working hours I seem to have lately reading them instead of Gass.

    Maybe one day I’ll return to it, but it was in no way satisfying anything in me as a reader.

    Aira always does. Always. I want more, ND! MORE!!!!! How many scores of Aira novels are just begging to be translated?

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