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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.

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.


  • 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 […]

You & Me

Solid review of You & Me, Padgett Powell’s new book. Review is by William Giraldi at the LARB.

It starts with a great discussion of Beckett, which You & Me seems to resemble. Powell’s such a solid author. Is he read as much as he should be? I have the feeling he’s not, even among the literary classes . . .

Great bit here about a performance of Waiting for Godot at San Quentin State Prison:

If the pedantic cabal of philosophers and critics has insisted upon Godot’s interminable difficulty as an utterance of our existential dread — as the quiddity of our existential condition — then there was at least one group of theatergoers who received the play by mainline, who required no assistance from obfuscating academics. Esslin begins The Theater of the Absurd with the extraordinary story of Godot’s 1957 production at San Quentin State Prison just north of San Francisco. The director, Herbert Blau, was atremble with anxiety: “How were they to face one of the toughest audiences in the world with a highly obscure, intellectual play that had produced near riots among a good many highly sophisticated audiences in Western Europe?” (If the only crime committed by “highly sophisticated” Europeans was their propensity for near riot, civilization in the twentieth century would have been a less barbarous affair.) In an act of either condescension or assuagement of his own nerves, Blau introduced Godot to the inmates and compared it to jazz, “to which one must listen for whatever one may find in it.” But his introduction was for naught because “what had bewildered the sophisticated audiences in Paris, London, and New York was immediately grasped by an audience of convicts.”

Esslin goes on to speculate about why these caged men might intuitively comprehend a plotless play about abject wastrels conversing obscurely on a country road, waiting for someone who will not appear, someone about whom they know only rumors. Either the circumstances in Godot paralleled the men’s incarceration and they merely identified — “merely” because your identification with or distance from a work of literature says nothing at all about the work and everything about you — or their paucity of critical apparatus rendered them especially susceptible to Beckett’s meaning, a meaning that must be, in the end, emotional as well as intellectual if the work is to succeed. Esslin suggests that the San Quentin inmates might have been “unsophisticated enough to come to the theater without any preconceived notions and ready-made expectations, so that they avoided the mistake that trapped so many established critics who condemned the play for its lack of plot, development, characterization, suspense, or plain common sense.”

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  1. All literary works are anonymous The TLS: Unhoused Terry Eagleton Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature by John Mullan All literary works are anonymous, but some are more anonymous...
  2. Satantango Vertigo reviews Satantango, the most recent translated novel from Laszlo Krasznahorkai. Krasznahorkai is a specialist in studying the forms of self-delusion we adopt to repel...
  3. Theater Dan picked up this post from Ed. The question of whether Osborne is a seminal figure or not has me wondering whether theatre is still...
  4. Cynthia Ozick in TNR The always-enlighening Cynthia Ozick tackles the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie over at TNR: On Justice Brandeis’s celebrated principle that "the remedy [for free...
  5. Beckett Centennial The New York Sun has some info on Grove's forthcoming boxed set of virtually all of Beckett's works. Grove Press, Beckett's original American publisher, has...

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1 comment to You & Me

  • MZell

    Great part of an interesting book (“Theatre of the Absurd”). As Gerald Murnane and Andrei Tarkovsky found, among many others, it is limiting and unnecessary to define one’s work as “not for everyone” because one never knows where one’s audience might span.

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