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.


  • 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 New Issue of Asymptote

Some great stuff therein, including this review by Ian Dreiblatt:

Against this backdrop, there is cause for celebration in NYRB/POETS’ recent publication of An Invitation for Me to Think, a collection of most of Vvedensky’s surviving writing, edited by the poet and scholar Eugene Ostashevsky. In this volume, Ostashevsky has translated much of Vvedensky’s work anew and has also included some of Matvei Yankelevich’s previous translations, previously available only in tiny, though gorgeous, editions. Comprising mostly poetry (much of it in the form of several-voice verse plays) and some prose, the book is a beautiful compliment to the public resuscitation Tolokonnikova initiated, a splendid opportunity for English-language readers to become familiar with Vvedensky’s vital weirdness and weird vitality, with the English word “weird” applying in its Vvedenskian double meaning of both “strange” and “bound up with fate.”

Aleksandr Vvedensky was born to an intellectual St. Petersburg family a few weeks before the Revolution of 1905. It was a time marked by astonishing intellectual ferment in Russia, with Symbolism in full bloom and Futurism growing. When he was twenty, he met another young poet named Daniil Juvachov, who wrote under the name Daniil Kharms, and the two of them, kindred spirits, founded a writers’ group called the Academy of Left Classics. A few years later, to dodge possible associations with Trotskyism, they changed the name to the Union for Actual Art—in Russian, Ob’jedinenie Real’nogo Iskusstva, usually shortened to OBERIU. The members of OBERIU quickly established themselves as Leningrad’s preeminent avant-gardists, staging performances where poetry readings mingled with film, plays, clowning, and hijinks of many stripes.

And this essay by Michael Hoffmann:

In the winter of 1992, I visited Wolfgang Koeppen in his high gloomy cavernous apartment on the banks of Munich’s green rushing river, the Isar, to give him a copy of my new translation of his novel, Death in Rome. Many things about that afternoon, which was dark when it began and soon turned into evening, might have been calculated to cause vertigo and bewilderment. I was there ostensibly to “interview” him, which was not something I’d ever done before. I had and have the deepest admiration for his writing—especially the so-called “post-war-trilogy” of Pigeons on the Grass (1951), The Hothouse (1953), and the book I had begun by translating, Death in Rome (1954—Koeppen was someone who wrote his books quickly and in little clusters, or not at all). It was all so long ago in his life, and before the beginning of mine—but what else was there to talk about? Death in Rome was and remained his last novel. Then there was Koeppen’s age, he was in his mid-eighties, fifty years my senior: how to show respect and forbearance to such a man, and yet extract some information from him for the readers of the Observer? His long life was full of old mysteries. Uninquisitive and content with the books, I didn’t know what they were: how he got through the War; the mystery of his writing and not-writing; his long, torturous marriage to a woman who when he married her was under-age—that was something else it certainly wouldn’t have occurred to me to question him about. And yet here was someone who had haunted 1920s Berlin, the Romanisches Café and all—who spoke with real feeling for the lost decades of German-Jewish civilization, who, himself a young man in his twenties, claimed to have met Joseph Roth, whom I had also lately begun translating, and who had always seemed inconceivably remote to me, until I found myself sitting in the company of this man who had once been his younger colleague!

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Blinding Excerpt at Asymptote Blinding by Mircea Cartarescu, which I mentioned a couple of months ago, has just been published and you can now read an excerpt in Asymptote....
  2. Issue 23 Preview at The Quarterly Conversation We've published two features from the upcoming (March 7) Issue 23 of The Quarterly Conversation. These are two excellent pieces, and we published them early...
  3. New Asymptote New issue of Asymptote, pretty stuffed with all kinds of translation stuff. There’s a short piece by Laszlo Krasznahorkai. And this essay on translation by...
  4. The Buenos Aires Review Issue 1 Just published, the first full issue of The Buenos Aires Review. Featuring, among other things, a new translation of Mario Bellatín. And an interview with...
  5. Music & Literature Issue 3 Murnane fans will find a lot to love in Issue 3 of Music & Literature. Full table of contents is amazing (and at the link),...

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1 comment to The New Issue of Asymptote

  • Paul

    I teach philosophy and have always hesitated to put poets on the syllabus, but having looked at ‘An Invitation for me to Think’ I’m inclined to change that policy.

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