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 […]

Writing the Globe

These are interesting thoughts, as usual, from Tim Parks. Though I have no doubt that writers like Hassan Daoud and Makkawi Said, who, according to the article, work in traditional genres that would be off-putting to your average Western reader, I’m highly suspicious of the idea that “nobody has any idea how to read them even when they are translated.” That sounds like the kind of comment someone always seems to make at an international literature conference; certainly there’s some truth to it, but just as certainly people outside of a text’s tradition will be able to find something good in it if it’s a good text. After all, it’s in challenging assumptions—linguistic, formal, thematic—that foreign literature can have the most “benefit” in the sense of mutating a local language or tradition. Even the now-ubiquitous magic realist novel wouldn’t have become so prominent in the United States if it hadn’t once appeared strange to American eyes.

Zuccato, the Milanese poet, might have been answering her question, when he made an impassioned attack on the whole concept of post-colonial literature. He suggested that those postwar writers in Africa and India who had chosen to write in English and French for the international community had not only given us a superficial and easily consumed exoticism; in doing so they had made it less likely that a Western public would make the effort to read those working in the local languages and offering something that would be genuinely “other” from the Western novel package we are used to. The Milan-based literary agent, Marco Vigevani, rather confirmed this when he pointed out the situation of Arab language writers such as the Lebanese Hassan Daoud and the Egyptian Makkawi Said who work in traditional genres that mix poetry and prose that have no Western corollary. Prominent in the Arab world, these writers get almost no attention in the West because nobody has any idea how to read them even when they are translated.

What I found fascinating, as this discussion bounced back and forth, was that no one seemed to accept the idea that it might be enough to address one’s own community, that perhaps it was not strictly necessary to appear in this global space or contribute to its formation. Why should the literary world allow itself to be hijacked by this larger project?

The ideal of a single world community is an entirely honourable thing, but when literature (like football) becomes an instrument for creating that community, then there are other implications that may not be so attractive . . .

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. The Obligation to Be a Literary Tour Guide Tim Parks: But globalization is not uniform, and not always so kind. It can happen that a writer remains absolutely trapped in his local community,...
  2. What We’re Missing Words Without Borders has an interesting follow-up to that recent Guardian story that asked prominent Arab writers to tell us what Arabic book they’d most...
  3. Globe and Mail 100 Notables Thanks to Brian Harvey (author of The End of the River: Strangling the Rio Sao Francisco) for pointing me to The Globe and Mail's year...
  4. Joshua Henkin’s Ten Terrific Novels About Writers, Writing, and the Writing Life (Today we have a guest post from novelist Joshua Henkin. Henkin’s novel, Matrimony, about MFA students and writing about writing (among other things), is out...
  5. How Writing Became a Career Yet another vital NYRB Blog post from Tim Parks. Still, none of this prepared us for the advent of creative writing as a “career.” In...

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1 comment to Writing the Globe

  • l

    I wouldn’t say Hassan Daoud is either obscure or difficult to read. Several of his novels have been translated into English and the NYRB published one of his early on. But do understand Tim Park’s point, as usual.

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