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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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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 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

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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