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 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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