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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 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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