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Elif Batuman

Author of The Idiot

4+ Works 2,902 Members 123 Reviews 6 Favorited

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Includes the name: Elif Batuman

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Works by Elif Batuman

Associated Works

The Best American Essays 2010 (2010) — Contributor — 225 copies


1990s (14) 2010 (15) 2017 (16) 2018 (13) 21st century (29) academia (25) American (20) American literature (25) books about books (35) Boston (15) college (22) coming of age (38) contemporary (12) contemporary fiction (15) criticism (17) ebook (23) essays (54) fiction (187) Harvard (26) humor (27) Hungary (44) Kindle (22) language (18) literary criticism (59) literary fiction (28) literature (81) memoir (80) non-fiction (104) novel (47) read (30) read in 2018 (15) Russia (72) Russian (19) Russian literature (78) to-read (332) travel (24) Turkey (16) unread (11) USA (16) Uzbekistan (14)

Common Knowledge



TIOLI - Group Read - The Possessed in 75 Books Challenge for 2011 (March 2011)


At times a little too self consciously observer of the details. Objective interested inquiry into the quirks of any insular world, still, the academic world of Slavic literature is rife for such observations. There is a somber and beleaguered tone, but in the end comes back to a love of literature, a love of Russian literature. She obviously gets the humor of Russian literature (at least as I do) but lacks the vitality in her own writing which I attest to a sort of david Foster Wallace post modernism. I have particular interest in her topics, but not a book for everyone. A bit too recursively intellectual, is my Bourdieu-esque take on the thing. Ha. Ha.… (more)
BookyMaven | 48 other reviews | Dec 6, 2023 |
Quite good. Flits along from one thought, minor event to another, but all goes to show the awkwardness of what appears to be a young mind, but in fact is the awkwardness of a thoughtful human whose attachment to “knowing” is weak—only to discover that “knowing” and knowledge are weak properties. Bateman doesn’t make cute and adorable the awkwardness. And no good comes of it. It’s just a perpetual discomfort of not knowing what the right thing to do or think or say is. It’s a long book (400+) but very readable and engaging. Bateman has a humor that is endearing: writing of taking the train back to Harvard in January, “I had listened to my Walkman while reading Père Goriot. Père Goriot’s previous owner, Brian Kennedy, had systematically underlined what seemed to be the most meaningless and disconnected sentences in the whole book. Thank God I wasn’t in love with Brian Kennedy, and didn’t feel any mania to decipher his thoughts.” (P 81)… (more)
1 vote
BookyMaven | 62 other reviews | Dec 6, 2023 |
Good Writing as a Bad Habit

Walter Benjamin's writings on child-play are even more impressive if we imagine he is doing a kind of Nabokovian-noticing of his own puerile experiences. More likely, he is observing the behavior of children and writing himself backward.

Batuman's commentaries on the classics are impressive in that they strike us as precisely the A-level writing of a precocious college sophomore. How is Batuman able to write at that angle subtended by deeper-than-you-thought-but-not-too-deep interpretations. Likely she is benefiting from her students in her role as an instructor on literature (and that 80% of the structuring commentary is left out of the text). We already know that bright undergraduate who instinctually understands the chauvinist interpretations of Madame Bovary and our so-called "utilitarian moralists" to be false (brilliant), subsequently progressing to the insipid equivocation of Shakespeare and Intercourse (less brilliant), and followed by a vague perplexity on the subject of "littérature féminine" in the work of Irigaray and Cixous (not brilliant).

Later on, no longer supported by the perennial refreshment of freshman (Sophomoric) interpretations, the author is writing about a trip to Turkey at an impossibly high level. A bad habit that she is always lapsing into good writing (the other being titling her books after more famous works), which we no longer find believable in context.

Well-executed descriptions of intercourse and initial thoughts related to this. Per Heti, some people may be the great blow job artists of our age (but they, by virtue of the absurd, maintain this as an incognito). Few are willing to teach as Batuman does.

College freshmen should not be made to read Kierkegaard.
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Joe.Olipo | 10 other reviews | Sep 19, 2023 |
Beautifully blunt, simultaneously pseudo-intellectual and intellectual, hilarious, tenderhearted, witty... basically this novel is my perfect bildungsroman cup of tea.

I don't think I've ever seen myself in a character as much as I see myself in Selin - constantly overthinking, constantly questioning, and constantly dissatisfied with the simplicity of life's answers and with herself for not figuring that out sooner - albeit I'm the less cool and less intelligent second edition.

“There was something abstract and gentle about the experience of being ignored—a feeling of being spared, a known impossibility of anything happening—that was consonant with my understanding of love. In theory, of course, I knew that love could be reciprocated. It was a thing that happened, often, to other people. But I was unlike other people in so many ways.”
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cbwalsh | 10 other reviews | Sep 13, 2023 |



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