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.


  • 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 […]

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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  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...
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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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