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Reading Groups

Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual with Evan James

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Once a week Tuesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 17 to December 19, 2023

Online via Zoom

Registration for this group is closed.

One of the most remarkable works to emerge out of the loose network of experimental Oulipo writers, George Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual has been celebrated as a dazzling triumph of invention with an extraordinarily rich cast of characters. A “crazy-quilt monument to the imagination” (as Paul Auster once put it), the novel is structured around a single moment in time—8:00 p.m. on June 23, 1975—in an apartment building in Paris; chapter by chapter, Perec constructs a kaleidoscopic compendium of human experience and a formally playful literary puzzle that ranks among the most distinct creations in 20th-century fiction. During our wild ride through Life: A User’s Manual, we’ll learn about the artistic and cultural context from which it emerged as well, exploring the ideas of writers like Perec, Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino, and other Oulipians who sought to find new possibilities for literature by imposing innovative constraints on their works and working methods.

Meeting Details:
Tuesdays, 6–7:30pm ET
10/17–12/19, 10 Sessions
Online via Zoom

For the first session, please read the Preamble and then Chapters 1-12 of Part One (up to page 48 in the Godine edition)

Led by

  • Evan James

    Evan James

    Evan James

    Evan James is the author of Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe: A Novel and I’ve Been Wrong Before: Essays. He has an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught writing at The University of Iowa, Victoria University of Wellington, The Berlin Writers’ Workshop, The New School, and elsewhere. He ran a Tristram Shandy reading group for The Center for Fiction in the spring of 2022. He lives in Brooklyn.