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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You Say

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  • Bernie: Whoa now, mind your Midwestern readers there...
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  • David Long: This is a list I posted a few days ago: 25 REASONS TO THA
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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.


  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante September 16, 2014
    Few novelists have captured the rhythms and flow of life with the veracity of Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan Novels. Following the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo from childhood to old age, the tetralogy spans fifty years; over the course of that time, no emotion is too small, too dark, too banal to be recorded. No expense, so to speak, is […]
  • Trieste by Daša Drndić September 15, 2014
    As Drndić reiterates throughout the novel, “Behind every name there is a story.” And Haya Tedeschi’s story is draped in death. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism and tacitly supported the Fascists in Italy, Haya was a bystander to the Holocaust. She attended movies while Jews and partisans were transported to concentration camps; she pored […]
  • The Tree With No Name by Drago Jančar September 15, 2014
    At the opening of chapter 87—the first chapter found in The Tree with No Name—Janez Lipnik finds himself up a tree, shoeless, and lost in the Slovenian countryside. He makes his way to a house where he is taken in by a woman teacher who is waiting for her lover, a soldier. It becomes clear we are at the height of World War II. Soon after, we follow Lipnik […]
  • Kjell Askildsen, Selected Stories September 15, 2014
    Here, at the midpoint of his narrative, Bernhard, the affectless and purposeless protagonist of "The Unseen," experiences existential near-emancipation at dusk. This retreat toward obscurity in terse, direct language—thematic and stylistic markers of each work in the collection—comes immediately after Bernhard’s sister mentions her plans to enterta […]
  • Berlin Now by Peter Schneider September 15, 2014
    In his new book of essays, Berlin Now, Peter Schneider reveals himself as a gnarled Cold Warrior who has been stricken with many of the maladies common to his generation. With the specter of Communism exorcized, his new enemy is Islam. The book is a collection of short interlocking pieces introducing Anglophone readers to Berlin; it is not being published in […]
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente September 15, 2014
    In 1999, Marcos Giralt Torrente’s debut novel, Paris, was awarded the XVII Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Despite his success, it took fourteen years for Giralt’s work to appear in English, with the story collection The End of Love arriving in 2013. Now, this year sees the publication of two more books by Giralt: Paris, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, a […]
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner September 15, 2014
    “It seemed that the [New Yorker] story—which was in part the result of my dealing with the reception of my novel—had been much more widely received than the novel itself,” says the narrator of Ben Lerner’s second novel, 10:04. Perhaps this narrator is Lerner himself—at one point he describes 10:04, within its own pages, as “neither fiction nor nonfiction but […]
  • Theories of Forgetting by Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a masterful work structured around Robert Smithson’s earthwork “The Spiral Jetty.” Olsen’s novel is comprised of three narrations, written each by a separate member of a family. The husband’s and wife’s texts progress in opposite directions across the book, with each page divided among these two inverted texts; though […]
  • An Interview with Lance Olsen September 15, 2014
    The most substantial may be that innovative fiction knows what it is, that someone like me could define it in any productive way, that innovative fiction might somehow be one thing, or somehow consistent through time and space. None of these is the case. That’s exactly what I find most exciting about writing it, reading it, thinking about it. Innovative fict […]
  • The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu September 15, 2014
    In The Ants, we receive a study of existence through ants. That is, there are ants everywhere, ants substituted in every segment of the landscape, yet their behavior seems to reveal something altogether human. Too human. The ants are crushed and disappointed. They are warm and many. They are involved in gang wars and live inside carrot cake. The unique quali […]

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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