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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

Shop though these links = Support this site


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: Malcolm Forbes

Malcolm Forbes reviewed Greg Baxter’s The Apartment in Issue 30.

The first real stand-out read of the year was The Little Russian by Susan Sherman (Counterpoint), a debut novel which was so accomplished it felt like a mid-career high. Authors like Hilary Mantel and Emma Donoghue are doing wonders to re-galvanize interest in the historical novel, but Sherman’s contribution deserves merit for focusing on less well-trodden terrain, namely the Ukraine and its bloody suffering at the beginning of the last century. There are no real stylistic tricks on offer, simply good old-fashioned storytelling.

On the other hand, Hari Kunzru displayed ample literary dexterity in Gods Without Men (Knopf), a multistoried mind-bending adventure that has (justifiably) drawn comparisons with the works of David Mitchell. Kunzru caused a literary splash with his first novel, The Impressionist, and just seems to get better and better.

I was pleased to discover that NYRB Classics was releasing another book by the ever-beguiling Robert Walser. Berlin Stories is a misnomer—the book is rather a collection of articles which Walser wrote during his short but eventful stay in the German capital—but we can’t fault the content. It was particularly interesting for me as I currently call Berlin home, and most of Walser’s shrewd observations still hold true today.

Another impressive non-fiction title was Masha Gessen’s The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (Riverhead). Stuffed full of facts, anecdotes and bitter truths, this is crucial reading for anyone interested in modern Russia and its democratic disintegration. It is also a masterclass in journalism. Gessen wrote this expose while based in Russia, and continues to live there; we should applaud not only her indefatigable research but also her immense bravery.

Finally, I managed to find time for something less contemporary. 2012 was the 200th birthday of Dickens but also the centenary of Death in Venice. I shunned the Dickens hullaballoo for Mann and at long last read his masterly novella. Mann’s star has fallen in recent years. Readers are put off by his supposedly starchy style and bouts of prolixity. Worse, Death in Venice is a turn off for a hysterical minority who reduce its plot to its bare bones (elderly man falls in love with young boy), recoil and reach instead for Lolita (at least Nabokov had the sense to make his novel of child-love a pitch-black comedy). It should go without saying that Death in Venice is no apologia for anything unsavory, and Mann’s prose is compelling, beautiful and entirely stodge-free.

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: 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...
  3. TQC Favorites of 2012: John Lingan John Lingan wrote on concert films for the Fall 2012 issue of The Quarterly Conversation. Little, Big by John Crowley and The Slave by Isaac...
  4. TQC Favorites of 2012: Brad Johnson Brad Johnson reviewed The Planets by Sergio Chejfec in the Winter 2013 issue. Reiner Stach, KAFKA: THE DECISIVE YEARS The first volume of Stach’s three-volume...
  5. 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,...

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