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.


  • 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: 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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