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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.

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: John Domini

We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from John Domini, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly Conversation is a review of Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck.

To read all entries in this series, click here.

Ten, Anyway: reluctant but heartfelt, a list of a year’s good, obscure reading for The Quarterly Conversation

Lists are odious, brainless, even cruel—and also handy, irresistible, only natural. The depth and insight of actual criticism has always meant more to me than any Top Ten. I can’t deny, however, that even Walter Benjamin celebrated his own select few (Kafka and Proust both owe him a debt), and even Vladimir Nabokov, in his brief piece “On Inspiration,” trotted through an inventory of the colleagues he respected most (including a surprising name or two, like John Barth). So when TQC requested I tote up my year’s most rewarding reading and post the results, who was I to act the snob?

Rather than refusing, I’ve used a filter. I’ll grant that plenty of fine titles appeared on New York’s commercial presses. I’ve read McBride’s National Book Award winner, The Good Lord Bird, and here’s another glass of champagne (though didn’t anyone else feel that the novel returned too often to the same satiric note?). Still, granting that much, I don’t see how another list of the biggies on FSG and Knopf will add anything. Instead, I’ll offer a double-handful my favorite small- and independent-press reading over the past year. Small-press, everyone! Note, too, that a few of the titles aren’t exactly 2013. Caveat emptor.

1) George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time, Peter Dimock (Dalkey Archive, 2013). An impossible text, a set of instructions rather than a story, yet Dimock pierces the heart of the callousness and tragedy of America under Bush II.

2) Cataclysm Baby, Matt Bell (Mudluscious Press, 2012). Bell has gone on to bigger things, but this brutal and poetic abecedarium remains his key work, the one where he forged his apocalyptic redemption.

3) The Expedition to the Baobab Tree (Archipelago Books, 2014). J.M Coetze translated, and this woman’s vision of slavery and escape, alive with the terrors of both, invites comparison to no less a book than Waiting for the Barbarians.

4) Mira Corpora, Jeff Jackson (Two Dollar Radio, 2013). A miracle: a bildungsroman that leaves what it’s building in ruins, that trashes its hero’s metanarrative like a take-no-prisoners postmodern, and yet, in the reading, proves exciting, swift, and altogether a delight.

5) Cannonball, Joseph McElroy (Dzanc Books, 2013). The old dog, McElroy, performs a spectacular new trick, tracking how two SoCal youngsters are perverted by the country’s Iraq misadventure, and the Gospels along with them, all in challenging prose spirals.

6) Scouting the Reaper, Jacob M. Appel (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Sensational short stories, realism of rare imagination — zoo penguins and teen runaways, anyone? — distinguished throughout by a prodigious gift for rendering personality on a thumbnail.

7) Train Shots, Vanessa Blakeslee (Burrow Press, 2014). Our newly stunted America discovers itself in a trailer park, with connections damn close to surreal. Every one of these stories glistens some conversation teetering between cruelty and crying for mercy.

8) The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men, Gabriel Blackwell (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2013). A Pale Fire prank, false lit cum false footnotes, and a brilliant collusion of Lovecraft’s monsters and the monstrous reality of life at poverty level.

9) Submergence, J.M. Ledgard (Coffee House Press, 2013). Sumptuous clash-of-culture material which, like Dimock’s, forages for a few incidences of the ethical and the good, even in ravaged Africa.

10) Jagannath: Stories, by Karin Tidbeck (Cheeky Frawg, 2012). Fantasy to set your back-hairs bristling, the dream-stuff close to terror even when the story’s a romance, and the best enact old myths with a jaundiced, up-to-the-minute awareness.

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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