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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

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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 […]

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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