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 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 […]

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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