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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.

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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 Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

The Tunnel Big Read: Slow Reading

We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 3, covering pages 247 through 379. Get the schedule here. Purchase the book here and benefit this site. All posts related to this group read are here.


Picking up on a theme that’s becoming more and more prevalent in the comments as our Tunnel Big Read moves through Week 3, a lot of us are slowing down. Interestingly, “being behind” doesn’t seem to correlate at all with “dropping out”; in other words, the fact that people are slowing down doesn’t seem to have any impact on their desire to finish reading this book.

This is interesting, and really the first time this has ever happened with a Big Read—actually, if anything, we tend to see the opposite. One of my goals with these things is to read though the book a very measured, stately pace; to essentially allow for a read that’s a long duration and that forces contemplation. As such, I like to chart out chunks of text in the 100 – 120 pages per week range, somewhere between 15 and 20 pages per day, which isn’t a whole lot.

What usually happens is that a number of people read faster than the schedule. This is the first time that we’ve seen a mass response toward reading behind schedule, and that clearly says something about the size of The Tunnel (there are a lot of words per page; I’d estimate around 400) and the complexity of the prose.

I’m curious as to how this has affected everyone’s experience of this book and if you’re determined to keep up, even if this ends up taking you 2 months. For my own part, I’m determined to stay on schedule, challenging as it is becoming. But, of course, all our commentaries will be up on this site indefinitely, so go at your own pace, comment on the threads as you see fit. Most of all, enjoy the book; read it the way you think best.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. The Tunnel Big Read: Week 3 Welcome to Week 3 of our group read of William H. Gass’s The Tunnel. The read lasts from September 30 through November 3. We...
  2. The Tunnel Big Read: Questions for Week 2′s Reading We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 2, covering...
  3. The Tunnel Big Read: We Begin We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 1, covering...
  4. The Tunnel Big Read: The Make or Break Week? We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 3, covering...
  5. The Tunnel Big Read: The Desire to Know the Truth We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 1, covering...

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2 comments to The Tunnel Big Read: Slow Reading

  • Chez

    I was behind on the readings until this week, when I think the novel started to pick up for me. As others have noted, the second week’s segment was a source of frustration, and couldn’t hold my attention for more than a few pages at a time. The prose seemed very inconsistent; at times really effective at what it was doing but at others bloated. I think that the style only works to the extent that its depth is justified by the subject matter. I also didn’t really buy the equation of interpersonal quarrels with armed conflicts between nations – part of a trend, at least in what I see as Kohler’s intention, of trying to increase the scale of his own misfortunes (and deprecate that of the larger ones that he studies, in capital-H history which doesn’t leave room for him as an individual).

    The third week’s reading has reinvigorated my interest, even in spite of (maybe because of) Kohler’s appearing less like a victim of terror personal and historical, and more of a source.

  • I was keeping up, getting everything read at least by the end of its respective week, but another commitment has me thinking I’m going to accept being a full week behind for the last two sections.

    Things do pick back up or begin to take better shape in week three, I’ll say that. What the shape is isn’t all clear to me yet, but I’m seeing there’s something there.

    And really I just suspect more and more I’m only setting myself up for a second read at this point, which, I suspect, is when the novel would or could really fully click into place for me.

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