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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 […]

YFTS: Immersion

(Wrapping up Your Face This Spring, we have a guest post from Neil Griffin, another prolific commenter. Here he articulates why he found the world of Your Face Tomorrow uncommonly absorbing.)

Like Scott guessed in a previous YFTS post, there were readers other than him who skipped ahead and read the book quicker than our planned time-line, and I was one of these book-club-rule-breaking offenders. I didn’t start cheating right away. The first few weeks I assumed that I would stick to the schedule, since I had eased into the book leisurely and enjoyed reading 50 or so pages a week and soaking in the consciousness of Deza in all its anxious and wise glory, and then exiting after the prescribed pages with no symptoms of withdrawal. I was even able to read other unrelated books in between assignments and then pick up from where I left off rather painlessly.

Then Tupra came into the story.

I threw the syllabus into the slow-moving river as soon as Deza was swept into Tupra’s world of shifting identities, translation, interpretation, fever, spears, and, ultimately, poison. There’s a section in the first book, when Deza describes his surveillance where I did indeed feel like I was under some feverish spell, from which I didn’t recover–if indeed I am recovered–until the final page of the third book.

So why did I enter this book so thoroughly?

When I tried to explain the book to my friends they thought me strange for being drawn into this world, which I articulated rather on the nose. In Fever and Spear, for example, I explained the plot, as follows: “There’s a Spaniard living in London who gets invited to a party, where he meets an interesting person, whom he eventually works for. He also finds a spot of blood on the stairs and speaks to his old mentor about the atmosphere during the great war.”

Cue looks of confusion and empty words: oh, sounds like an interesting read.

And my friends’ indifference makes sense on a plot level; there really isn’t much going on externally. But Marias makes the book stick to the reader by bringing up universal thoughts, worries, and anxieties through the medium of Deza’s mind. The thoughts colliding into one another create phenomenal images and wordplay that still circulate through my consciousness, even though I finished this two months ago: the ephemeral snow on shoulders, the slow river, the fever, the scratch, farewell my friends, the dancer, the bathroom of bare legs and brutal assaults, the sword, the murdered baby, baiting the man like a bull, Custardoy’s eyes, and the dormant silence always ready to erupt, while the shadow of the 1930s and 40s remains splattered in the present like the rim of blood, which is the hardest part to remove from my memory.

This is the best way I can articulate the magic of this book: through assorted fragments, gestures, thoughts, and insinuations that have been poured into my mind’s eye like an ecstatic poison.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. 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...
  2. YFTS: Turning Points The first thing I'd like to remark about on our current section of Your Face Tomorrow (we're in Week 13) is this was the first...
  3. YFTS: I am Myself My Own Fever and Pain, and Dogs Have 18 Toes Before we get started on this week’s discussion, a few housekeeping items. First off, remember that on Monday we’ll be joined by Margaret Jull Costa,...
  4. 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...
  5. 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...

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4 comments to YFTS: Immersion

  • Richard

    Neil: I’m so glad to find someone found this novel as all-immersing as I did. I’m curious about your statement that, during the first batch of page-assignments, you were able to read other things in between without a problem, and then able to return to YFT without a problem. I experienced the same strange thing. And the same thing that happened to you did me: once we got through half of Volume II, I literally could not stop myself from continuing to read. As I mentioned back towards the end of the assigned Vol. II reading, I literally FORCED myself to not begin Vol. III, but to keep the Marias fix working (which I desperately needed to do), I went and read All Souls and Dark Back of Time, which was a very curious and wonderful experience as there are so many links between those two books and the three volumes of YFT, but then once we started Vol. III, I literally finished it in three nights.

    I’m also happy to hear from someone who does not seem to dislike Deza, find him weak or annoying or whatever…I was fascinated with his character, and very much related to him in all his weakness and strength, in all his rumination and drifting, and in all his doubt, fear, fever, the word, pain, sleep and dream…

    Thanks for a great post!

  • RJH (formerly Richard)

    THE POSTERS!!!! Take a look at this link (I hope it will take here in comments): http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/07/16/2010-07-16_82yearold_14_others_arrested_in_80_million_medicare_scheme_cops.html

    It’s from today’s NY Daily News–look at the photo at the top of the article–it’s an old poster warning people not to talk–almost exactly like some of those Marias included in YFT–this has to do with a health clinic scam, but I was so stunned to see the photo of this poster so prominently…I love it when a book I read suddenly begins echoing for me across the culture’s present moment…

  • RJH: Interesting that you mention this. A number of times since we began our group read of YFT, I’ve remarked on how our posters from our “war” on terror contrast those from WWII. All the ones I see exhort you to talk at the least provocation . . . be it a bag sitting unaccompanied, some shady person glancing around, or just a sensation you have that all is not right, these signs always call on you to tell someone in authority immediately. Speak! they say, where Marias’ signs tell you, Silence!

  • RJH (formerly Richard)

    Scott–I know exactly what you mean. Here in NYC the word around town since 9/11 has been the ubiquitous “if you see something, say something,” which in my darker moods makes me think it’s turned all of us into paranoid Pynchon characters…So I was of course doubly shocked to see the image about keeping mum, staying silent, in the Daily News…It was just such a shocking image to see, precisely because of the “speak!” culture we’re in now, as you note, and also because of the proximity of my reading of YFT with its “Silence”…On the other hand, I do find myself wondering if the whole “Speak” culture is not really the exact opposite of the “Silence” campaigns of WWII, but rather their evil twin…encouraging us to inform on each other, while in the meantime our governments are clandestinely spying on our e-mail and cell phone calls, tracking our library lists and our credit card receipts, looking for the least hint that we may have engaged in some way with “the enemy”–the equivalent of Tupra’s videos of people’s dark behavior being saved for some future use…But alas, this space is too small for an extended conversation of such!

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