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.

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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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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 Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Two Reviews of A Place in the Country

Two reviews of the latest book by W.G. Sebald, A Place in the Country.

Michael Lipkin in BOMB:

What unites Sebald’s subjects, besides their shared provenance, is a relationship to writing and to literature that is less expressive than it is compulsive. “There seems to be no remedy for the vice of literature,” writes Sebald in the foreword to Country. “Those afflicted persist in the habit despite the fact that there is no longer any pleasure to be derived from it, even at that critical age when . . . one every day runs the risk of becoming simpleminded and longs for nothing more than to put a halt to the wheels ceaselessly turning in one’s head.” Sebald casts this devotion to a wholly useless activity as a form of resistance against a society that has no patience for objects without an immediate monetary purpose. By the same token, nature, the perennial Sebald theme, appears in Country as a political and historical alternative—a road not traveled—to the blind self-destruction of industrial capitalism. This idea is spelled out most explicitly in the chapters on Hebel and Rousseau, in a lengthy excurse on the French physiocrats, whose plans for a society based on land agriculture “sought, in the face of the far-reaching changes affecting collective life in the eighteenth century to achieve a lasting basis for a harmonization of society based on natural law,” as well as on Rousseau’s little-read constitution for Corsica, in which Rousseau suggests that the Corsicans avoid urbanization and monetary exchange in favor of agriculture, “as the only possible basis for a true and free life.”

Damion Searls in Bookforum:

Sebald speaks most directly to this aspect of our present moment in A Place in the Country, the collection only now translated after an unnecessary fifteen-year delay that may yet turn out for the best. Sebald’s English-language readers could certainly be forgiven for thinking we’d reached the bottom of the barrel after the slight Unrecounted (2004) and disappointing Campo Santo (2005), and A Place in the Country seems unpromising, with five essays on five authors and a sixth on the visual artist Jan Peter Tripp. Sadly, the English edition encourages this misconception, adding a dreary introduction, informative but unnecessary notes, and pedantically retained words and phrases in German throughout. A Place in the Country didn’t need this academic treatment any more than Rings of Saturn and Sebald’s other novels; thank goodness they were left to breathe as the living works of art they are. I hope that English-only readers will be able to see, beneath the clutter, that A Place in the Country is Sebald at his best, complete with the unmistakable photographs, the unmistakable tone.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Negative Reviews, And the Virtues of Writing Short Reviews Mark Athitakis has a nice post-Kirkus posting. He discusses the publication’s much talked about policy of penning negative reviews: In short, it wasn’t a job...
  2. Enemy Country Denis Donoghue’s essay in the current Harper’s is good. Here’s a nice quote from it: But I wish he had interrogated language itself a bit...
  3. Undiscover’d Country Vertigo delivers another dispatch of its read through The Undiscover’d Country, the new collection of Sebald criticism. The book sounds quite good, but at that...
  4. A Place in the Country Didn’t realize that Sebald’s A Place in the Country was already out in the UK. (Doesn’t release in the States until January 2014.) Here’s an...
  5. A Place in the Country Solid review of the latest Sebald book, A Place in the Country, at the LARB. Head’s-up, we are going to have a fantastic essay on...

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1 comment to Two Reviews of A Place in the Country

  • The first reviewer was kinda inaccurate, or unfamiliar with Sebald’s first translated nonfic On the Natural History of Destruction.

    “Apart from the odds and ends assembled in the earlier collection Campo Santo, A Place in the Country is the English-speaking world’s first encounter with Sebald’s work as an essayist and professor of European Literature.”

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