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.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

YFTS: Magaret Jull Costa Responds

Here are the responses to the questions posed earlier this week to Margaret Jull Costa:

Neil: One of the many pleasures of reading the novel was how there seemed to be a constant translation taking place in Deza’s head between English and Spanish and back to English. How did translating a character who already is constantly translating and playing with both languages affect your work on the novel? Did it add another layer to your translation? How was it different translating this than other books that may not have been as concerned with the differences and respective peculiarities of English and Spanish?

MJC: I think I took a pretty pragmatic approach, sometimes leaving a Spanish expression in Spanish and then giving an English translation or else leaving it unexplained–as I do occasionally when Wheeler is pondering various unfathomable Spanish idioms–because there the meaning wasn’t important. The narrator does occasionally comment that there is no English equivalent for a particular Spanish expression, but I have to find a translation anyway! Javier is the only one of my writers who does this kind of thing, but it’s obviously most marked in those of his novels set in England or America and where the narrator himself is a translator or interpreter. It does add another layer of difficulty in a way, but then again I do spend my working life moving between languages, so it’s not such a leap.

Jeremy Hatch: My question is kind of a more technical one and less about the book per se, but since I do so much copyediting in my professional life, it keeps striking me as I’m reading that the usage and spelling throughout is British–“realise” as opposed to “realize,” “colour” rather than “color,” decisions are “taken,” not “made,” double l’s in certain words, and so forth. Given that New Directions is an American publishing house, I was curious whether this usage choice was a conscious decision and therefore an integral part of the translation, given that what action there is takes place in London amongst Europeans, or if the choice was more of a circumstantial thing–you know, the first publication in English was a British edition and that’s the text ND used, or maybe you are British and those choices are just the choices that are most natural to you, or whatever. Thanks!

MJC: I worked as a copy-editor myself for a few years, and it’s such a useful skill for the translator to have as well. As for the British spellings, the novels are co-published in the UK by Chatto & Windus, and I myself am British. So the translation starts off in British spelling and, in this case, remains so. My wonderful editor at New Directions, Barbara Epler, does change certain excessively British turns of phrase into a more U.S. idiom, but I think it was felt that British spelling would not trouble American readers too much–apart from those who do a lot of copy-editing!

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. YFTS: Margaret Jull Costa Interview MJC: The long sentence that is so characteristic of Javier’s style first occurs in The Man of Feeling. The sentences and the novels have grown...
  2. YFTS: Margaret Jull Costa Now Joining Us Legendary translator Margaret Jull Costa, who of course translated Your Face Tomorrow, as well as books by Jose Saramago, Fernando Pessoa, Eça de Queiroz, Bernardo...
  3. YFTS: Javier Marias as Translator Turns out we’re having a bit of a translation theme this week. As I noted on Monday, Javier Marias is not only one of Spain’s...
  4. 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,...
  5. YFTS: Spy Games and Redundancy Hi, everyone, this is Andrew Seal. Scott has asked me to pinch-hit for this week of Your Face This Spring, and it’s a great week...

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2 comments to YFTS: Magaret Jull Costa Responds

  • Stephen

    And these trans-Atlantic conversations across oceans and friendly borders and time, time as represented by a bike, a train and a plane, which actualy seems to be slowing down and reversing in Marias’s novel. Cool.

  • RJH (formerly Richard)

    Hi Scott,
    Hearing from the translator was pretty amazing–thank you so much for getting that coup for us! She had some very interesting answers to these questions here, and your interview with her was penetrating.

    I am wondering, though, when you might post some more of your own thoughts about how Vol I ended (or did I miss them? if so, my apologies–it’s certainly possible)…I’ve gotten a little ahead in my reading, and am now halfway through Vol II, so am taking a bit of a break to get even with the schedule, and find myself flipping back through Vol I and relating so much of it to some of the things that are taken up immediately again in Vol II (James Bond, women’s legs and thighs, one minute, fever, the next spear, my pain, sleep and dreams…etc…)…Anyway, I’m quite curious to hear your take–and others’–on Vol I as a “whole” (or, at least, as a “whole” section I to a long novel, as Marias sees it)…

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