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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

What to Read (and Not): Essays and Reviews, by Tom LeClair

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What to Read (and Not): Essays and Reviews, by Tom LeClair

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What to Read (and Not): Essays and Reviews, by Tom LeClair

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These essays and reviews are mostly about literary fiction published in the last ten years and are written from the perspective of a fan of the McElroy/Coover/DeLillo axis or, more recently, the Powers/Vollmann/Wallace axis. The review-essays include pieces on all of the National Book Award fiction finalists of the last five years. Reviews selected here first appeared in Electronic Book Review, the Barnes & Noble Review, the New York Times Book Review, the AtlanticBookforum, the Nationt, the American Book Review, the Daily Beast, and other national periodicals. Taken together, the essays and reviews comment on the state of literary culture—the fiction division—in America. Also included are several personal essays about the development of the author from Vermont woodsman to Brooklyn wordsman.


“Tom LeClair’s reviews are among the most thoughtful I have read and continue to read and among the most intelligent; they bring with them an experienced point-of-view and a seriousness of purpose equal to those of any reviewer in America.” —Harold Augenbraum, director, National Book Foundation

“Tom LeClair is a consistently reliable reviewer with the bona fides of a celebrated critic. As a reader who laments, ‘So many books; so little time,’ I feel called upon to thank him virtually every month for reading the books I won’t have to get. More important, a book that passes muster with Tom LeClair is a must read. Infallibly accurate and articulately focused, he provides an admirable service to the world of literary fiction.” —Neil D. Isaacs, author of more than twenty books and The Triumph of Artifice: Treasures of Twentieth-Century Narrative

“Because it will sharpen your sense of what literature can do, and because LeClair’s characteristic intelligence runs like a watermark through all these pieces, What to Read is a must read.” —Stephen J. Burn

“Tom LeClair is one of our most perceptive readers of contemporary fiction. He has written about William Gass, William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, and Stanley Elkin, among others, with his own deep passion for difficult books.” —Jerome Charyn


A Duke PhD in English, Tom LeClair was a National Book Award judge for fiction in 2005. He is the author of two books on contemporary American fiction (In the Loop andThe Art of Excess), five novels (Passing OffWell-Founded FearPassing OnThe Liquidators, and Passing Through), and hundreds of essays and reviews in literary quarterlies such as the Paris ReviewWitness, and TriQuarterly, and in periodicals such as the AtlanticBookforum, the Nation, the New Republic, the New York Times Book Review, the Barnes & Noble Review, and many others. He is also the coeditor, with Larry McCaffery, of Anything Can Happen, a book of interviews with American novelists. For his criticism, he has received a Pushcart Prize and the Margaret Church award from Modern Fiction Studies. The Nathaniel Ropes Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati for many years, he is now a freelance writer living in New York City, where he is known as Professor Ping Pong.