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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • 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
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

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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