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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

Travel Notes (from here—to there) by Stanley Crawford

Calamari Press has recently reissued the long-out-of-print Travel Notes (from here—to there) by Stanley Crawford (whom you might recognize as the author of the Log of the S.S. the Mrs Unguentine).

The LARB has a nice review of this book that doubles as an overview on Crawford:

STANLEY CRAWFORD’S CAREER has been as strange and surreal as many of his novels. As a young writer in the 1960s, published by such powerhouses as Simon & Schuster and Knopf, Crawford found that the all-powerful New York Times book section of the day met his books with both acclaim and perplexity. The paper of record described his first novel, Gascoyne (1966; reissued by Overlook Press in 2005) as a “a satiric phantasmagoria” and pronounced it “wonderful.” Richard Lester planned to film this absurdist story of a man controlling a Los Angeles-like city from the confines of his car. Two years later Crawford published Some Instructions to My Wife, in which another insanely controlling narrator laid out detailed instructions for how his house was to be run and his children raised.

Writing in The New York Times, the novelist Stanley Elkin was not amused by Travel Notes, finding its absurdist humor and non-sequiturs to be “arbitrary” instead of inventive. Crawford eventually moved to New Mexico to run a garlic farm (about which he wrote two memoirs), while continuing to publish and to see some of his earlier work re-published, all the while quietly building a kind-of cult following in the next generation.

In 2008, for instance, Dalkey Archive Press reissued Crawford’s Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine with an introduction by Ben Marcus. Marcus asserts that in 1972, the year of the book’s publication . . .

And a piece on the book in Full-Stop:

These strategies, of course, are designed to capture the disorientation of all foreign travel, the destabilizing, often hilarious, experience of being in a place where language, simple customs, politics, even love, operate according to laws you’re not privy to. For Crawford’s narrator, travel’s one consistent law is that the tourist must constantly play catch up. Foreign objects stay so alien to him they’re literally protean, capable even of shapeshifting mid-sentence:

Then I discovered a telephone behind the desk (cemetery, rather) and was going to call for — help, I suppose, in spite of the language difficulty — when the telephone receiver began to melt in my hand, melt, I repeat — for it was made out of a very flavorful chocolate.

Many of these images, such as one scene where the narrator finds himself in a totally silent city waiting in a line that leads to the front of a firing squad, resonate with a signature haunting energy. But if the fluctuating landscapes and hallucinatory palpitations were meant solely to show us that traveling is weird, Travel Notes would be a fairly simple book. And it’s not. In Crawford’s seemingly haywire progression, we stumble across hints of tiny patterns, recurrent images — doubles, objects taken apart and reassembled, bureaucrats seated at isolated desks, The Païnted Wōman. Just enough to tempt us to connect them, though it’s impossible to know how. We also catch glimpses of possible historical references — an uprising in the first section plays out like an absurdist account (complete with a cherry pie assassination) of the 1967 military coup in Greece, which occurred while Crawford was living on Crete.

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  1. Stanley Fish Calls It Quits In my wholly subjective and ill-informed opinion, it strikes me that this demonstrates why someone like Stanley Fish was not a great critic, whereas someone...
  2. Strange Travel Books An interesting post over at The Millions on travel books to fake places. More of a fake atlas than a fake travel book, The Dictionary...
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson An author who is new to me. Kim Stanley Robinson is best known as a novelist of scale, a creator of complex futures and universes...
  4. George Anderson Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time Heady praise at HTMLGIANT for George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time and Peter Dimock in general. But leaving aside the novel’s...
  5. Newest Review At TQC: Notes On Susan Sontag By Phillip Lopate Monica McFawn reviews an interesting addition to the collection of Sontag scholarship: Lopate is a writer of personal essays, and Notes on Sontag is, among...

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