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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

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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