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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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You Say

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  • Henry: I think the fireworks may come from the fact that these auth
  • Paul: Vanessa Place's 'La Medusa' seems like an American authored
  • Lance: I agree with you about the state of American fiction and I b
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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.


  • A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

Weekend Content

Blake

Recreating a Disaster–William Blake at the Tate:

"Blotted and blurred and very badly drawn," sneered the Examiner – which, with its progressive politics, was in some ways the Guardian of its day. "The poor man fancies himself a great master, and has painted a few wretched pictures." The critic – the only reviewer of Blake’s 1809 exhibition – reserved, if possible, a more splenetic vocabulary for the catalogue, which Blake also wrote. "A farrago of nonsense, unintelligibleness, and egregious vanity, the wild effusions of a distempered brain," the Examiner thundered.

History has been kinder to the poet, painter, printmaker and visionary than contemporary opinion. Now Tate Britain is to recreate that disastrous exhibition – exactly 200 years after it was staged in 1809 – and will bring together at least nine of the surviving 11 works from the 16 in the original show. It will also republish Blake’s Descriptive Catalogue, now regarded as a fascinating and significant commentary on the London art world of his day. The 1809 exhibition, held in Golden Square, Soho, proved a turning point in the artist’s career. Embittered by its appalling reception, he withdrew even more from the art world into solitary eccentricity.

CONTEXT, Towards an Infinitesimal Novel: An Interview with Jean-Philippe Toussaint:

JPT: Yes, you’re right, it’s a manifesto, a program. I don’t know how aware of this I was. But still, it took me over a month to write the first paragraph. I still know it by heart. “It was at about the same time in my life, a calm life in which ordinarily nothing happened, that two events coincided, events that, taken separately, were of hardly any interest, and that, considered together, were unfortunately not connected in any way.” It’s a very radical opening, and it really is having fun with the readers. Here I am, a thirty-year-old writer saying: “What I’m about to tell you is absolutely irrelevant.” In other words: “I’m about to make you feel foolish.” It’s a very impertinent opening. I’m responding very offhandedly to Kafka’s famous aphorism: “In the fight between you and the world, back the world,” with “In the fight between you and reality, be discouraging.” So yes, it’s a manifesto, but it isn’t a theoretical essay or piece; it’s there, in the book itself, in the opening paragraph of the book, as a theory in action. Underlying my novel is, although it isn’t expressed theoretically, an idea of literature focused on the insignificant, on the banal, on the mundane, the “not interesting,” the “not edifying,” on lulls in time, on marginal events, which are usually excluded from literature and are not dealt with in books.

CONTEXT, Reading Stanley Crawford’s Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine:

But while most of Crawford’s contemporaries were staging their loveless, white-knuckle relationship fiction in a spume of alcohol, boxed up in fresh suburban sheet rock, Crawford put his unhappily married couple, the Unguentines, to sea, rendered them as solitary (if not so innocent) as Adam and Eve, and he cursed them to be so awkwardly fit for human behavior that every kind of congress had to be reinvented and mythologized anew. If The Mrs Unguentine is so large and equipped it seems more like an island, it is also a floating stage for human experimentation, beyond the strictures of society, and the novel itself is a playbook for rethinking just what two people are supposed to do together when most of the livable world is out of reach. And to make their dilemma special, so we could see the nosedive of the Unguentines’ failed love through a crystal lens that Crawford ground himself from his own blend, he canopied the bad marriage with a fantastical dome, a literary invention so beautiful it doesn’t hog the spotlight so much as become a kind of distorted monocle through which to see this experiment in isolation, gardening, and love go terribly, terribly wrong.

60 Great Books in 60 Days, and, of course, blogging it.

In case you missed it, my favorite reads of 2008. These are all fiction, but at Ready Steady Book’s year-end "symposium" I’ll be mentioning some of my favorite reads from the critical sphere.

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 The Jewish Quarterly, "Irène Némirovsky and the Death of the Critic" by Tadzio Koelb. The rebirth of the author becomes the death of the critic:...
  3. Weekend Content Joan Miro: “I want to assassinate painting. I intend to destroy, destroy everything that exists in painting. I have utter contempt for painting.” NYRB:...
  4. Weekend Content LRB, Double Thought by Michael Wood, which weighs whether or not Kafka’s office work was a wellspring of his fiction: Where did Kafka learn to...
  5. 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...

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