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 Tunnel Big Read: “I Could Not Read The Tunnel Before Sleeping . . .” by Hilary Plum

This post is part of the group read of William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. The read is concluded, but you can still experience this singular, bizarre book for yourself. Read along with us by having a look at the schedule here. Purchase the book here and benefit this site. All posts related to this group read are here.


These thoughts are from Tunnel Big Read participant Hilary Plum.

I could not read The Tunnel before sleeping; then Kohler would hound me through my dreams. So for this five weeks each morning has begun with the tome splayed open on the kitchen table, other books required to hold down its corners, while I ate breakfast and pretended this was a civilized way to begin a day. I am behind in reading and felt such relief the other day remembering that soon I would be finished, that soon each day would not begin in this vilely beautiful enchantment. Though already I hope to read The Tunnel someday again.

Big books: I rarely read them. My life is too fragmented—chronic illness—it’s hard enough to hold onto any thread of my own thought, my work, hard to add to that a commitment of such scope and at which I worry I’ll be bound to fail. Lately what I look for in books is how the work expresses its understanding of how it will be read (for read, read: lived); how its rhythms and endeavor will be broken up over, suffused throughout, digested by, the daily cadence and strange depths of a stranger’s life. It would be fair to say I dreaded reading The Tunnel and each day took my fifteen to twenty pages like medicine (or is it poison?). And yet I loved it too, and no one could deny its singular beauty, prose of such force and dizzying craft its spell is hard to break. It’s tempting to force this beauty into the metaphor: sugar that makes the bitter pill of the novel’s Weltanschauung go down. But it is not so simple. The beauty is essential to the nightmare, and The Tunnel fights our attempts to tame it thus in description.

The Tunnel tells us: “A book… is like a deck of windows: each page perceives a world and tells a fortune; each page at least faintly reflects the face of its reader, and hands down a judgment; each page is made of mind, and it is that same mind that perceives the world outside, and it is that same mind that reflects a world within, and it is that same mind that stands translucently between perception and reflection, uniting and dividing, double dealing.”

Many literary works deal in, or would like to, the profound disappointment Kohler embodies (or canonizes; or rages against and into). The emptiness of American suburban middle-age; the grotesque failure of man’s intellectual endeavors. Gass goes further, if not furthest, howling all the way down into fiction’s living grave. He makes us see in Kohler a self we can recognize. He takes the hard-won tools of fiction and shows us what they can be “good” for: “writers on the Third Reich—before my example—have never troubled to put themselves in the villains’ place, to imagine the unimaginable—it is easy to be a victim… you simply weep and bleed—but ah, the beater, to be the beater is not a role whose easy mastery is readily admittable; sympathies in such a cause are not idly, not routinely, not frequently enlisted; and were they to be, what then?” I don’t think it’s right to read this book as saying only one thing, explicating any one theory; its excess is vital. Yet, for instance, that passage on die Hände des Führers: to be so persuasively reminded that fascism lived not in the heart of one monster but in the hearts and more importantly the hands of millions: “it was the sum of us in the vast ranks who were accomplishing Hitler’s beautiful barbarities.” One commenter has noted the repetition of the phrase “the fascism of the heart”: indeed.

“Even in death, the Führer’s followers proclaimed, if it came to that. And they knew death would be where he’d take them: that land no one needs to promise.” One thinks of that summary history one learns (is it true? I can’t say): that the Holocaust itself sabotaged the Nazis’ military triumph, made impossible the Thousand-Year Reich; even as in battle the Germans suffered shortage and setback, the trains to the death camps ran with remarkable efficiency. The defeat of the Nazis begins the American century: their downfall our triumph. Thus it seems right (in the logic of history and nightmare both) that in The Tunnel fascism endures, takes foul root, in the American plains and the postwar American mind. “A book is like a deck of windows”—Kohler spends his life reading about the Nazis and discovers himself among them, on the other side of the glass. Now we spend our days reading Kohler and must face that the mind faintly reflected in his, the hell we perceive, is our own.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. The Tunnel Big Read: The Beginning of the End? We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 4, covering...
  2. The Tunnel Big Read: Final Week This begins our fifth and final week of group reading The Tunnel. Congrats to those who have made it this far, and best wishes...
  3. The Tunnel Big Read: Historical Philosophy and Broken Windows We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 4, covering...
  4. The Tunnel Big Read: The End and a Few Last Questions This post is part of the group read of William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. The read...
  5. The Tunnel Big Read: How Long Can We Stand Kohler? We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 5, our...

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