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 […]

YFTS: Cleaning House

Time permitting, I’m going to do a summary post of vol 2 the way I did one for vol 1, but for now I’d like to add a few more thoughts that I didn’t get into the earlier post about our final slice of vol 2.

On page 288, I found it very noteworthy that Deza draws a comparison to Wheeler when Tupra gives him his comb back:

He handed it back to me. Unlike Wheeler, he hadn’t taken the precaution of holding it up to the light to see if it was clean when I gave it to him . . .

This brief image doesn’t simply send us back to Wheeler but also back to that whole wild scene to end vol 1 with the helicopter brushing Wheeler and Deza (which is why Wheeler needs to borrow Deza’s comb). But first of all, let’s deal with Wheeler vis a vis Tupra.

Clearly Wheeler acts as a sort of father-figure for Deza when he’s on the British island; he is sort of the presiding patriarch of vol 1, and after reading vol 2 I feel as though Tupra acts in a similar capacity for that book. (And later, on page 308, Tupra is directly compared to Deza’s father.) Clearly, Wheeler and Tupra represent different facets of the image of a patriarch, perhaps in line with the theme of each book; perhaps they are in a way fathering the face that Deza will display to the world “tomorrow,” once this adventure in England has come to a close for him.

But to get back to the final scene of vol 1: I find it interesting that each book ends with a bravado scene of disarray and violence, and that Marias is at pains to link them there with that reference on page 288. Seen from this perspective, the two volumes overlay rather well, with Wheeler/Tupra acting in similar capacity in each, each volume concluding with a bizarre scene that touches Deza deeply, and then there being a final period of reflection that gives on to the following volume.

I also think that now is an appropriate time to talk about the covers, which, frankly, at first mystified me but now I believe I have come up with a theory about. First, let’s recall that these are in fact the covers that Marias chose to grace these three books. (Unlike the vast majority of authors, he was given the honor of being allowed to choose his books’ covers, and thus we can consider them part of the overall composition.) So let’s have a look at them together:

What I notice on the first is that long open road: we are just starting out on a long journey, and we are looking down the front of a motorcycle, a vehicle that typically conveys isolation, even something of a rebel image. There is still all that road ahead of us to travel, and we are perhaps adrift in a foreign land. It brings to mid Deza, alone and in Britain and unsure of where he is headed.

Then in the second image we see a train powering toward us under a full head of steam. We can hardly see the track at all here; the frame is instead taken up by that big, chugging train, which impresses us with its force and dedication to steam forward right past us. If we are on this train we are not thinking of where we are headed; no, we are simply being taken along for the ride, and we concern ourselves with our own personal matters, or perhaps admiring the countryside that we are passing through. It is an image that implies that Deza is no longer so concerned with the path he has chosen but rather with the people and things he finds as he is being drawn down that path.

And lastly, we see an image of an airplane that I believe had just landed. It is almost the opposite of that first image: instead of the front of the plane we see its back side, and the vehicle itself obscures any sight of the road (in this case a body of water) that may or may not lie before it. We have set down and our journey is ended, and we will disembark separate from the rest of the people we have traveled with (perhaps across the English channel and back again on the Continent).

Taken together, the images constitute to me three different phases of a long journey, beginning, middle, and end. They are perhaps emblematic of Deza’s journey, representing the mood and spirit of each phase of the journey that he undertakes in the books whose cover they grace.

And lastly, here’s a very YFT-esque news tidbit indicating how far this country has gone to embrace fascistic beliefs in our lust for security. Wheeler would be appalled.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. YFTS: The Redemption of Sympathy In my reading, the point of Deza recalling that awful story his father told him about Ronda--where the fascists baited a man like a bull...
  2. YFTS: The Hardest Part About Fictions Is Not Creating But Maintaining Them A couple of things I wanted to point out from the first 20 or so pages of the segment of Fever and Spear that we're...
  3. YFTS: The Perils of Dancing So a few more comments about last week's section, pp. 122 - 201. I'd like to draw everyone's attention to page 194, which I think...
  4. YFTS: And Now We Venture Into the Ladies' Room, and Into the Mind of a Vengeful God I'm sure everyone was very tickled by the restroom scene--I know I was. In a very broad sort of way, this scene made the book...
  5. YFTS: Some Thoughts on the First 90 Pages of Your Face Tomorrow and the Perils of Talking Now that we've gotten our feet wet with the first 90 pages or so of Your Face Tomorrow, some initial thoughts. For those who aren't...

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