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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

Weekend Content

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Joan Miro: “I want to assassinate painting. I intend to destroy, destroy everything that exists in painting. I have utter contempt for painting.

NYRB: Two Paths for the Novel, wherein Zadie Smith argues persuasively against the exact kind of novel she’s been trending toward.

From two recent novels, a story emerges about the future for the Anglophone novel. Both are the result of long journeys. Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill, took seven years to write; Remainder,
by Tom McCarthy, took seven years to find a mainstream publisher. The
two novels are antipodal—indeed one is the strong refusal of the other.
The violence of the rejection Remainder represents to a novel like Netherland
is, in part, a function of our ailing literary culture. All novels
attempt to cut neural routes through the brain, to convince us that
down this road the true future of the novel lies. In healthy times, we
cut multiple roads, allowing for the possibility of a Jean Genet as
surely as a Graham Greene.

These aren’t particularly healthy times. A breed of lyrical Realism has had the freedom of the highway for some time now, with most other exits blocked. For Netherland, our receptive pathways are so solidly established that to read this novel is to feel a powerful, somewhat dispiriting sense of recognition. It seems perfectly done—in a sense that’s the problem. It’s so precisely the image of what we have been taught to value in fiction that it throws that image into a kind of existential crisis, as the photograph gifts a nervous breakdown to the painted portrait.

Boston Review, The End of Sexual Identity:

In regard to sexual identity, fiction writers today not only display
some sort of civic obligation to “imagine” the other, but also reveal a
profound curiosity, a hunger, to try on the other’s tropes, to exchange
them, to press ourselves against them and be transformed. We want to
know how other people do it—make narrative, that is. We want to do it
the way they do and see what happens. Chain bookstores might prefer to
herd shoppers into categories under fluorescent lights, but writers and
readers have a way of wandering around in the dusk, curious,
appetitive, mutable. From that wandering, new forms and new ways of
seeing emerge. We look through the eyes of the other not via identity—this is what it’s like to be you—but via a way of making narrative—this is what it’s like to tell a story, to frame the world, the way you do—and suddenly we are able to apprehend the world anew.
     What follows is a very rough map of this new terrain.

Ramirez

Martin Ramirez, in the Economist:"MARTIN RAMIREZ spent most of his adult life in mental hospitals. He
taught himself to paint, using whatever he could lay his hands on:
food, pencils, crayons, shoe polish, even his own saliva coloured by
chewing up newspaper illustrations. To make the huge pieces of paper he
liked to work on, he used newspaper, grocery bags and thin
medical-examination sheets, glued together with a paste of spit and
mashed potatoes. For decades he has been considered an oddball artist,
America’s answer to Richard Dadd."

Words Without Borders, Three Myths of Immigrant Writing by Sasa Stanišić:

Myth 1: Immigrant literature is a philological category of its own, and thus comprises a fruitful anomaly in relation to national literatures.

To speak of a single “immigrant literature” is simply wrong, because it is wrongly simple. The nature of migration and the level of foreign writers’ integration vary too much to be collected in one category, not to mention the authors’ unique biographical backgrounds and differing cultural, religious, or social habits. Even these outward literary characteristics point to the great diversity of experiences, possible subjects, and intellectual influences which in many cases become a part of the text or even make up the text as a whole. The goal of objective judgment should be to overcome the fixation on an author’s biography and move to a thematically-oriented view of the work.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Weekend Content Jean-Luc Godard Louise Bourgeois How to Write About Africa: In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty...
  2. Weekend Content Ten Greatest Movie Endings of All Time GQ, The Book of Me, Richard Powers writes about getting his genome sequenced. Ligeti, String Quartet London Review...
  3. Weekend Content Mark Rothko at the Tate The Labor of Reading in an Age of Ubiquitous Bookselling (d) But what about the data it [i.e. the Kindle]...
  4. Weekend Content Graphic Notation Arnold Schoenberg The introduction to a recently published translation of writings Kafka made in conjunction with his professional employment: To come to grips...
  5. Weekend Content Peter Doig It’s Friday, so let’s be frivolous. National Book Award speculation. Speaking of frivolous, Nobel odds. Right now there are three American authors...

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2 comments to Weekend Content

  • Hmm, but still you spell English with a capital ‘e’. I think one of the effects of the proliferation of writing on the internet will be a quickening in the absorption of influences, and the merging of languages. Hasten the possibility of a universal one which evolves naturally instead of through rules of grammar. That excites me.

  • Here, here for Zadie Smith’s commentary: “A breed of lyrical Realism has had the freedom of the highway for some time now, with most other exits blocked.”
    It’s really sadly true. After spending my early reading years indulging in such a wide cast of authors, I feel like I’ve read nothing but lyrical realism for the last 10 years. Nothing against it, but it’s not the only way to write, and it becomes a quite limiting way to represent the world.
    Novels need to be a bit messier, to show the signs of their exploration…

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