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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    Issue 38 right here. or TOC after the jump. Features Readings, Fragments,... »
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    Rivka Galchen on the new Kafka bio by Reiner Stach. I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for... »
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You Say

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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

Weekend Content

The Quarterly Conversation: Issue 14

Some items you might have missed:

  • Carter Scholz, writing in the tradition of William Gaddis and Richard Powers:
    • Scholz’s familiarity with his material has led some readers to assume
      he is a disgruntled nuclear physicist. But his background is in science
      fiction, not science, with a record of published shorter works
      stretching back over 30 years (representative samples are collected in
      the 2003 collection The Amount to Carry). He has also collaborated with Glenn Harcourt on the novel Palimpsests (1984) and with Jonathan Lethem on the collection Kafka Americana (1999), a set of re-imaginings of Kafka’s life and works. . . . Scholz shares with Lethem a love of the more speculative genres, and of
      their antecedents (Borges, Calvino, and of course Kafka). With Richard
      Powers
      he shares an enthusiasm for building his works around scientific
      ideas, and with the Don DeLillo of Ratner’s Star he holds in
      common an irrepressible impulse to satirize the scientists responsible
      for them. But he departs from his contemporaries in the way he melds
      his observations of the descendental world of scientific practice with
      a reverent sense of the scientific vocation.
      The result of such a melding is an alternately satirical and
      spiritual book. The harsh skepticism that Scholz the satirist brings to
      weapons science is not unlike the skepticism William Gaddis brings to
      business and law in his novels J R and A Frolic of His Own.
  • Tranquility, favorably compared to Andrzej Stasiuk’s novels:
    • There are certainly other writers who employ nonstop misery (Elfriede
      Jelinek comes to mind), but I think there’s a particular brand of
      humorless brutality to Bartis’s that sets it apart. For one thing, its
      ceaseless ferocity gives it a power, even a certain beauty. It’s not
      written to shock, or merely for the sake of writing in this manner.
  • And my review of essays from Michelle Cliff, carrying the torch of Jamaica Kincaid in things Caribbean, feminist, and postcolonial:
    • Though the essays lack the poem’s packed intensity, they do borrow from its logic; many of them strongly resemble collages, and in their heavy fragmentation meaning is established as a series of inter-referencing elements, not as a linear progression. This is most clearly felt in the piece “Cross-Country: A Documentary in Ten Jump-Cuts.” It begins with Cliff leaving the Tehachapi Loop, a 19th-century engineering marvel outside of Barstow, California, in which a stretch of track brings trains back to the exact point from which they started, only 80 feet higher so they can surmount a hill and continue on their journey. It is a fitting jumping-off point for an essay that rambles around the United States of America and then promptly ends where it began, albeit better for the journey.

Favorite Book Covers of 2008

The Literary Saloon has commentary on the Best Translated Book of 2008 longlist:

Among the striking things about the longlist are, of course the omissions; Chad listed a few honorable mentions yesterday, but more noticeable is the large geographic/linguistic blank areas — most notably Far East Asia. Not a single Chinese, Japanese, or Korean title — indeed, nothing from anywhere in Asia until we hit the Mediterranean ! (I lobbied for Beijing Coma by Ma Jian and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan, but practically all these other titles appear to have had considerably stronger support — and, after all, I haven’t even managed to put reviews of either of those fat novels up.)

       Note also: only one Arabic title, and no Russian titles (the Serge is French). One African title.

       On a case-by-case basis much of this can be explained — practically nothing in translation came out of Africa (or sub-continental Asia), the Russian and Japanese selections were arguably relatively weak (though I thought Lala Pipo was worth considering), etc. etc., but it still is fairly striking, if not outright shocking. (Especially from among the Arabic and Chinese titles, I’m surprised more didn’t slip in.)

Tchaikovsky, Souvenir of a Beloved Place

Symphony 3

Piano Concerto (soloist Vladimir Horowitz)

The Threepenny Review, Interpreter of Lives by Javier Marias.

The Threepenny Review, Notes on Sontag by Phillip Lopate, an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Notes on Sontag:

My favorite book of Susan Sontag’s—not necessarily her best book but the one I like best—is Under the Sign of Saturn.
I like it partly because it is free of the aggressive, badgering tone
of her aesthetic polemics, and is instead a fairly unified suite of
sympathetic biographical portraits of male melancholics, her heroes of
the intellect (Paul Goodman, Antonin Artaud, Roland Barthes, Walter
Benjamin, Hans-Jurgen Syberberg, Elias Canetti), with the one gender
exception being Leni Riefenstahl in "Fascinating Fascism," which is not
at all sympathetic but brilliant in other ways. I don’t think it is
incorrect to say that Sontag was essentially male-identified; she wrote
much more sympathetically and readily about men than about women, which
landed her in trouble at times with feminist critics. Nor would I put
it past myself to have liked these biographical essays of luftmenschen so much, partly for the reason that as a male reader I identify more strongly with them.

The Nation, Trilling’s Sandbags: Lionel Trilling’s Critical Essays:

All this may seem puzzling to those for whom Trilling is little more
than a name, especially those who have grown up since his death, in
1975. It may be hard to understand why he was, a couple of generations
ago, one of academia’s most cherished culture heroes, one of the few
saints of modern literary criticism. It may be harder still to make the
case for why Trilling, in his antique, mannered way, might matter now.
But if so, there can be few better places to start than with a
reconsideration of his most celebrated book, The Liberal
Imagination
(first published in 1950), reissued with a brief, deft
introduction by Louis Menand, thought by some to come as near as anyone
can to being Trilling’s successor today.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. 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...
  2. 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...
  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 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:...
  5. 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]...

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