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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You Say

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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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

TQC Favorites of 2012: Daniel Medin

Daniel Medin is the Senior Editor of The Quarterly Conversation.

Novels

1. László Krasznahorkai: Satantango (New Directions)
I love Krasznahorkai’s dark discerning humor, and was delighted to discover that this novel retains its power – and savage funniness – after rereading. It also contains scenes of uncommon beauty. Refracted glory to George Szirtes for his translation: sentence for sentence, Satantango has to be one of the most striking books published in English in 2012.

2. Mahmoud Dowlatabadi: The Colonel (Melville House)
Unspeakably dark history of a revolution that devoured – and continues to devour – its children. Rains as hard here as it does in Krasznahorkai, and there’s as little forgiveness. The novel has haunted me for months, perhaps because its violence is by no means exclusive to Iran.

3. Kirsty Gunn: The Big Music (Faber)
A wise, generous and formally ambitious book about Scottish fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and music-making. Its structure is modeled after the classical compositional form of the highland bagpipe (and inspired by the great modernists). Remarkable glimpses of the inner lives of women and men, lives that repeat themselves with variations – like the theme of a piobaireachd – from one generation to the next.

4. Yi Mun-Yol: The Poet, trans. Brother Anthony of Taizé (Harvill)
A portrait of nineteenth-century Korean poet Kim Pyong-yon that lets in the inventions and interpolations of its author. Normally, that kind of description would put me off, but there are no “look at me!” hijinks in this novel. Despite a brisk and dry delivery, Yi Mun-Yol evokes the miseries of exile effectively. The same stands for his unsentimental representation of the mysteries of creative conception.

5. Alfred Döblin: Berlin-Alexanderplatz (dtv)
Revisited this classic while teaching in Berlin last summer. Berlin-Alexanderplatz resounds with robust dialogue that performs miracles: you’re reminded of the impending catastrophe every chapter, yet weep when the worst comes, punctually, to pass because the characters have been brought to life so successfully by their language alone. I’ve heard rumors that a new translation is underway. If true, this is a cause for celebration. Eugene Jolas’s version, while valiant, is now more than eighty years old, and it fails to capture the sound and smoke of the original. The time’s ripe for more English readers to discover Döblin.

Everything Else

Nescio: Amsterdam Stories, trans. Damion Searls (NYRB Classics)
Was reeled in by the first two sentences of “The Freeloader.” (See for yourself; they’re in the Amazon preview.)

Szilárd Borbély: Poems
Little of his writing has appeared to date in English – just a few translations from Berlin-Hamlet in New Order: Hungarians of the Post 1989 Generation, an anthology edited by George Szirtes. Efforts are afoot to remedy this lack. Borbély’s simply too good to remain in the shadows; his champions include Krasznahorkai and Nádas, so hopefully the situation will change soon.

William H. Gass: Life Sentences (Knopf)
His ‘review’ of Rainer Stach’s biography is the gutsiest take on Kafka in ages.

Tacita Dean: Selected Writings 1992-2011 (Steidl)
Although known principally for her work in film, Dean is also an excellent writer. Her reflections on projects about W.G. Sebald, Mario Merz et al. merit a wider readership.

Maria Soudaïeva: Slogans (Olivier)
This volume collects a hundred pages of militant calls to action by a Russian author who, according to Antoine Volodine’s preface (he is listed as translator, but I suspect that Soudaïeva is yet another heteronym), committed suicide in 2003. Her slogans are about as effective, as revolutionary propaganda, as, say, a story by Platonov. They’re also the sort of thing you can imagine in the hands of a Bolaño protagonist. The strangest, most original work of prose I encountered in French last year.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. TQC Favorites of 2012: K.T. Kahn K.T. Kahn reviewed Inland by Gerald Murnane in our fall 2012 issue. 1. Ice by Anna Kavan Kavan creates a world that is the stuff...
  2. TQC Favorites of 2012: Scott Bryan Wilson Scott Bryan Wilson is a contributing editor to The Quarterly Conversation. *Death of a Hero (1929) – Richard Aldington – Penguin Classics is issuing a...
  3. Welcome QC Editor Daniel Medin Issue 26 of The Quarterly Conversation, which we just published on Monday, is the first to have contributions from our latest editor, Daniel Medin. (That’s...
  4. TQC Favorites of 2012: Jeff Bursey Jeff Bursey’s most recent review for The Quarterly Conversation was of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard in the Winter 2013 issue. #1: My Struggle,...
  5. TQC Favorites of 2012: Erica Mena Here are the 5 picks from TQC Poetry Editor Erica Mena. 1. The Keep by Emily Wilson This book demands to be consumed slowly, word...

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