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 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 […]

TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: Geoff Wisner

We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from Geoff Wisner, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly Conversation is a review of Forest of a Thousand Daemons by D.O. Fagunwa.

To read all entries in this series, click here.

Early in 2013 I landed a new day job with an engineering company based in New Jersey. My two-hour megacommute gave me more time for reading, beginning with several books by Henry Petroski, the John McPhee of engineering. (In books like The Control of Nature, of course, John McPhee is himself the John McPhee of engineering.)

Some of the books I read this year I would recommend enthusiastically if only you had a reasonable chance of finding them. I read some of the more obscure works of Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Mission to Gelele, Two Trips to Gorilla Land, Vikram and the Vampire, and Goa, or the Blue Mountains. I also bought and burrowed through the four-volume 1952 edition of The Diary of George Templeton Strong—foolishly discarded by the University of West Florida.

For an essay on the Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra I read through all the fiction available in English, and uncovered a telling image that recurs in nearly every one of his books. (When will someone translate Crazy Scalpel and Bastards’ Fair?)

I did read some books published in 2013, however, and some of my favorites are listed below.

African Fiction

NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names.
The rude, brave, honest children in this first collection of stories by the Caine Prize winner are immediately believable. Bastard, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho, and Stina offer a fresh view of contemporary Zimbabwe.

Chinelo Okparanta, Happiness, Like Water.
After the first couple of stories, I thought I had this book figured out: cautious, well-made tales of women’s victimization. I nearly set it aside. But the young female narrator of the next story, “Fairness,” is a bit twisted, and with “Story, Story!” Okparanta turns out to be a more devious and surprising storyteller than I would have imagined.

Other Fiction

John Kenney, Truth in Advertising.
The hero of this sharp, funny novel is an ad man on the edge. The next big ad campaign could make his mark, his bosses tell him. It’s worth reading the book to enjoy his explosion on page 290 when someone says that once too often.

Norman Rush, Subtle Bodies. After three works of fiction set in Botswana, at the age of 80 Norman Rush has published his first novel to be set in America. A kind of high-brow Big Chill, in which a death brings together a group of college friends, Subtle Bodies has the same high energy, antic wit, and political astuteness that marked his blockbuster novel Mating.

Short Stories of John Updike (Library of America).
Edited by my old friend Chris Carduff, this handsome two-volume set brings together some of the 20th century’s best short fiction. I had read most of these stories before, so I jumped to the end for the heartbreaking final tales that appeared in My Father’s Tears.


William Friedkin, The Friedkin Connection.
Friedkin directed three of my favorite films in a row: The French Connection, The Exorcist, and Sorcerer. If you like them half as much as I do, you will enjoy the fascinating backstories told here. As unsparing with himself as with the studio executives who made his life difficult, Friedkin recalls a time when authenticity in moviemaking mattered more than high-tech gloss.

Charlie LeDuff, Detroit: An American Autopsy.
You’ve seen the eerie photos of the ruins, but what is it really like to live in Detroit? This edgy account covers the urban underbelly of a city where firehouses don’t have poles because the brass has been sold for scrap. I won’t forget the homeless man whose body has to be chipped out of several feet of ice.

Amy Wilensky, Farewell, Fred Voodoo.
“Fred Voodoo” is the dismissive name Western journalists gave to the man in the street in Haiti, a person they are often too busy and self-observed to talk to. Amy Wilentz has spent years getting to know Fred Voodoo and his friends and relatives, and although no longer as romantic about Haiti as she once was (as he remarked to me this year when I asked her to sign my copy of The Rainy Season) she is one of the best observers of that fascinating country.

Geoff Wisner, African Lives.
Well, if Norman Mailer could advertise himself . . . It would be dishonest to deny that reading my page proofs of my new anthology African Lives was a highlight of my year. Most of the credit goes to contributors like Bessie Head and Binyavanga Wainaina, but as the editor I’m pleased with the way I was able to arrange the selections so they follow the countries of Africa from A to B and the continent as if it were a printed page.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: Dan Green We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from Dan Green, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly...
  2. TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: K. Thomas Kahn We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from K. Thomas Kahn, whose most recent contribution to The...
  3. TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: Jeff Bursey We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from Jeff Bursey, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly...
  4. TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: David Winters We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from David Winters, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly...
  5. TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: Colin Marshall We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from Colin Marshall, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly...

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