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.

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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 Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

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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