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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.

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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.


  • 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 […]

Yet Another Crisis

You really have to have more imagination than to go to a crotchety old dude like Eliot Weinberger if you want to know what the state of literary criticism in the U.S. is. I don’t mean to dig Weinberger—he’s an awesome translator and was a great critic—but most available evidence suggests that he’s at the “everything once good has turned bad” point in his career.

The United States does not have the kinds of literary supplements that are common in Spain and many other countries. It has only one important frequent periodical of criticism—The New York Review of Books. There are no longer powerful American critics, as there were until the 1960s, writing in a prose that was intelligible to anyone, and inserting literature into the political, social, and moral issues of the day. So-called “serious” criticism has largely become the domain of academics, who write in a specialized jargon, under the bizarre belief that complex thought can only be presented in impenetrable sentences… Criticism, in the United States, has been reduced to “recommendations,” which come via reviews, blogs, and Twitter. Prizes have become the standard validation of literary merit- especially among those who are unaware how prizes are chosen. I can’t think of a single American critic to whom one now turns for ideas…

Except for insulting Internet culture, this reads like something that was probably in-date at some point in the 1980s. Academia has long been Bastilled, there are plenty of “powerful” critics writing for a popular audience (Tim Parks, Ruth Franklin, Daniel Mendelsohn, Adam Kirsch, Adam Thirlwell, James Wood, Geoff Dyer, etc.), and of course there are other “frequent periodicals of criticism” much more interesting than the NYRB.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Deconstructing Literary Prizes 3. The irony of this position is that most of the soi disant ‘serious readers’, who apparently number no more than 4,000 in the United...
  2. Prizes A good essay by Louis Menand on literary prizes. When the first Nobel Prize in Literature went to Sully Prudhomme, in 1901, the choice was...
  3. Big Money or Critical Taste Who wins? At Art Basel in Miami Beach last December, just as we were about to go out and perform on the imminent death of...
  4. Crisis or Not? Mark Sarvas finds it contradictory that John Freeman has recently written both about the so-called crisis of book reviewing and about there being more reviews...
  5. The Reading Crisis n + 1 has an article up about "The Reading Crisis." (Link goes to the n + 1 main page since they don’t seem to...

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2 comments to Yet Another Crisis

  • Eliot Weinberger

    Thanks, Scott! But I was describing the situation, not complaining about it. (And these sentences are excerpted from a longer statement.)

    This was written for El País in Spain. European and Latin American countries have lots of serious weekly/biweekly cultural/literary supplements and magazines. The USA has only one that is similar– the NYRB– regardless of what one thinks about it. (The NYTBR hardly qualifies as serious; magazines like The Nation and the New Republic are, of course, not devoted largely to culture.)

    I wrote “American” critics. More than half of those you name are Brits (though often appearing in US publications). Whatever their worth, none of them have the kind of “power” once held by Edmund Wilson, Alfred Kazin, Lionel Trilling, et al., and none of them are discussing literature in a larger social/political context. Whether this is good or bad is another topic– again, I was merely describing.

    Far from “insulting internet culture,” I have, from the beginning, promoted the internet as a vehicle for literature, especially poetry. In 1994, I was more or less laughed off the stage of the “Revolution” conference at St. Mark’s Church for saying that, in the future, the internet was going to be a tremendously powerful political force.

    In literary matters, it is completely untrue that I believe that “everything once good has turned bad.” In the world outside of literature, it seems safe to say that everything once bad has turned worse.

  • l

    Scott-
    I’m interested in your comment that “and of course there are other “frequent periodicals of criticism” much more interesting than the NYRB.” Would you mind providing a list? I am always looking for additional book criticism recommendations.

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