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.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

“The paradigm of certain disappointments”

When I was in New York last week, I saw Gary Indiana read from his
strange, rebarbative, yet oddly compelling new novel The Shanghai
Gesture
at 192 Books, and in subsequent days I read
through the volume of reviews, essays, and articles that he published
last year, Utopia's Debris. As I read, I found
myself returning again and again to the following collectible line from
its early pages:

Our representations of ourselves are
even more selective and partial than our portraiture of other people.

It comes from an obituary appreciation of
writer Gavin Lambert (1924-2005), and the thought is more than just an
attempt at aphorism: Indiana uses it to begin to describe a type of

peculiarly modern first-person narrator who is not
the principal subject of the narrative, and also the "I" who, like
Proust's Marcel, performs as the author's surrogate, while the question
of whether they are the same person has almost no speculative
importance.

Indiana is writing there of Lambert's
first book, a collection of stories of louche Hollywood types, The Slide Area (1959), but he returns to the
concept in more detail later in the essay, when considering that book
alongside one of Lambert's later novels, The Goodbye
People
(1971). Both books

invite the
close identification of an unnamed "I" with the author but, more
significantly, shift frequently backward and forward in time and
foreground a succession of individuals as the temporary subjects of the
narrative–this portmanteau effect is rarely used in literature, and
even more rarely used effectively. Aside from Proust, whose work
contains multiple structures and whose principal work is a single,
many-chambered novel, the notable examples include Tolstoy's story "The
Forged Coupon," Gide's Caves du Vatican, and
some of Bunuel's late films.

Indiana is modest enough
not to mention his own novels in that mode, the best of which is the
stunning, and sadly neglected, Do Everything in the
Dark
(2003), which I would rank as one of the best novels
of the past decade. As for Lambert, though I knew his name from the
novel Inside Daisy Clover (1966), which was
made into a film starring Natalie Wood and Robert Redford, I'll admit to
having never heard of his other books, for which Indiana makes a
convincing case. Serpent's Tail reprinted The Slide
Area
in 1998–looks like a trip to my local bookstore is in order.

Utopia's
Debris
captures Indiana in all his voices: admiring,
catty, cynical, angry, appreciative, caustic, thoughtful, and–even
when he's wryly piling on viciously well-chosen adjectives–always
fundamentally serious. In the preface, he writes that the pieces in the
book,

in the end, reflect my own tastes, the
seductions to which my own sensibilities have surrendered me, and that
they do not, alas, primarily group themselves under the sign of eros,
but of death. If many of the works and artists examined in these pages
heighten a tonic sense of life, more often they have instilled an acute
and not entirely uncomfortable reminder of my own mortality, the
ephemeral nature of consciousness, and represent something of the
struggle of individuals to wrest from their brief time of existence something of value.

Perhaps more
important, Indiana's essays, like his novels, pulse with empathy; the
following lines from a piece about artist Barbara Kruger could serve as
a pithy summation of Do Everything in the
Dark
:

This is the subtext: The conviction
that empathy can, in fact, change the world–a little at a time, and
not always, and you will only improve things a little bit, anyway, but
if you don't even try, the incurably ugly side of human nature has
already won the war inside us all.

Do
Everything in the Dark
is out of print, but readily available used, Utopia's Debris new; you could certainly do
worse with your book-buying budget this week than picking up the pair.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Bookshelves Are For Books Scott McLemee writes a splendid tongue-in-cheek riff off of these remarks: “Bookshelves are not for displaying books you’ve read,” says Klein; “those books go in...
  2. Michael Martone Interview at The Quarterly Conversation We just published an interview with Michael Martone, creator of delightful experimental fictions. I think most people who read this blog know Martone, but for...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

3 comments to “The paradigm of certain disappointments”

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>