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: What About the Bosses?

Daniel Hartley has a highly worthwhile post on vol 1 of Your Face Tomorrow. Therein he brings up an excellent point that, I must admit, I had ignored until he mentioned it:

In Kafka’s The Trial K. is ensnared in a dark, deeply oppressive legal system of which he compulsively seeks the centre and means of escape. If Javier Marías’s Jacobo is anything to go by, then today we are just as ensnared as K. was, but without the desire to disentangle ourselves. He has no idea who he is working for, what they do, or why they do it, and yet nonetheless he goes to work, does his job, and goes home. When I read this passage I was instantly reminded of Mark Fisher’s description (in Capitalist Realism) of our current Weberian ‘iron cage’ nightmare – from which we are not even struggling to wake up. Do not all multinational corporations have the structure of this anonymous intelligence agency? We all go to work, give our best, and go home, ignorant of the vast networks of hidden tentacles along which my well-intended actions transform into acts of viciousness I could never have dreamed of in my little office, with the Monet reprint on the wall, the photo of my wife and daughter on the desk, and my favourite Hay Festival mug on the lever arch file.

And now for what I really really think the novel is ‘about’. These two previous points are important but accidental. Their essence lies in that they presented Marías with what I can only think to call a ‘framework-machine’ for producing those notorious sentences and mini-narratives. Everything points to this conclusion: the impersonal aura of the characters, the over-intellectualised nature of the whole text, the vague omnipresence of the intelligence agency, which means that literally anyone anywhere can become the trigger for a barrage of Javier’s finest phrases, the acts of interpretation which the narrator is called upon to perform: all of this is what the Russian formalists would have called the ‘motivation of the device’, the structure which gives Marías the excuse to produce those potentially limitless sentences (limitless because trying to mimic exactly the movements of consciousness in language is like trying to capture the whole of one’s head when stood between two mirrors – impossible and infinite).

And one begins to wonder why Wheeler and Deza are so sanguine about working for faceless government overlords . . . (though this is a question Deza explores to a certain, less-than-satisfying degree in his interview with Perez Nuix at the beginning of vol 2)

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. YFTS: Favors, and The Return of the Socks (!) For those of you who remain with me, we are now just beginning "Dance," the first section of volume 2 of Javier Marias' long book...
  2. 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...
  3. 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...
  4. 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...
  5. 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...

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3 comments to YFTS: What About the Bosses?

  • Stephen

    In an attempt to understand Deza, I’ve been shooting arrows wildly in all kinds of different directions, just to see were they land. Wow. I think Daniel has really hit the target.

  • Padraic

    The post seems an accurate way to describe what Marias is up to, but I’m not sure how relevant that is to “all” of our lives. I work for a university, and am highly aware of what the university does (both good and bad), and I’m pretty sure most employees do too.

    I have friends who work for Goldman and Monsanto, and they are as (perhaps more) aware of the problems of these companies as I am. Not that this is any better, morally, but they are quite “aware” of who it is they work for and what they do. The problem isn’t one of “hidden bosses” but of the powerful incentives of money and power, among other things.

    And I’m not sure this is anything new, or anything to do with corporations, faceless or otherwise. Did Bob Cratchet care what Scrooge did to others, or was he happy to just be able to feed his family?

  • I was just reading Javier’s blog. He has mentioned about his book ‘A heart so white’ in his blog

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