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Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’


Friday, April 6th, 2012

It’s hard for me to convey how seriously my world was shaken by these lines from last Sunday’s NYTBR “In the List” roundup:

There was a time, three or four years ago, when it seemed every novelist had a blog, and why not? Blogging gave writers another way to reach readers, to promote their work or air their grievances or test their ideas in mini-essays that played to their strengths. But technology evolves, and despite some notable holdouts (Elif Batuman is one) Twitter has killed the blogging star. Now writers connect with their publics in 140 characters or fewer.

I had NO IDEA until I read it in the Times that writers had stopped keeping blogs!! Three or four years ago—that’s just when I started blogging! And now I’m one of the last ones left?? How did this happen?? When??

I became obsessed by the phrase “notable holdout.” “Notable holdout,” I kept thinking to myself. “Notable holdout.” Sometimes it sounded good; other times, not so good. I went through a long period of fruitless thinking. I looked up “holdout” in multiple dictionaries.  I wondered whether I would be worse at Twitter than Anne Lamott and, if so, how much worse. I took a break to check my email, and found 14 new spam comments posted to my notable-holdout blog by the latest Captcha resistant spambots, who have moved into the future and left me in the past. And, finally, I remembered Viktor Shklovsky’s immortal Third Factory:

It’s wrong to say: “The whole squad is out of step except for one ensign.” I want to speak with my time, to understand its voice. Right now, for example, it’s hard for me to write, because the normal length for an article will soon be reached.

But chance is crucial to art. The dimensions of a book have always been dictated to an author.

OK human history – I can take a hint. You can find me on Twitter @BananaKarenina, unburdening my heart according to the dimensions dictated by my time.

Once I had gotten started on the important life decisions, I also decided to shut down my Facebook “Author” page, although I’m leaving up my “personal” Facebook page. I will be tweeting (on Twitter) the newsy stuff I used to put on the Author page; Twitter is set to post automatically/ publicly to my “personal” FB page, so please feel free to subscribe. Those who use Facebook but not Twitter can see my Twitter posts on my Facebook page. To those notable holdouts who use neither Twitter nor Facebook, I hang my head and can only say, in the words of my late grandmother, “Hem bravo, hem pardon” (bravo, sorry).

I’m leaving up this site, but only for what I hope will be the very rare occasions when I have grievances that take more than 140 characters to air. I’m sorry to say that I will NO LONGER CHECK COMMENTS REGULARLY, because I swear every day I get +100 comments from some crooked robot trying to sell me used term papers. But you can tell me what you think via Twitter/ Facebook, or through my people.

See you IN THE FUTURE!!!

I will not tell you how long it took me to make that hat.
(I am too cheap for Photoshop.)


Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Media-savvy readers! I’m really excited to share with you some recent press mentions. The first was in Jennifer B. McDonald’s NYBTR review of The Lifespan of a Fact, a book I keep wondering whether or not to read. On the plus side, it sounds super-interesting (“An innovative essayist and his fact-checker do battle about the use of truth and the definition of nonfiction”). On the minus side, it apparently looks like this:




Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Earlier this month, I was very happy to spend two days at the Frankfurt Book Fair, promoting the German edition of my book and impressing the German media with my air of misery and depression. I am told that the following headline, from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Feuilleton, alludes to the terrible time I was having (full text up here):

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The photo caption, according to Google Translate: “Elif Batuman, just before the bad mood was.”

I do remember being puzzled by that interview, since the interviewer didn’t actually ask any questions; he mostly just wanted to discuss his theory that the attendees of the Frankfurt Book Fair are possessed by literature. Historically, of course, it is a very thin line separating the possessed from the grouchy.

image lntg


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Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Thanks to Kaya Genç, who recently sent along Sam Leith’s review of Michael Moore’s new book, with the following note:

Look at the last sentence of the essay! That’s even stronger than ”douchebag“, right?

I think it is!

I quite enjoyed Leith’s review, which includes both bumf and a put-down of the Vietnam short-story in favor of Hegelianism:

Like a short-story writer (rather than, say, a left-wing historian), Moore sees history advancing through personal epiphanies and turning points. Nixon’s behaviour in Vietnam, for instance, acts on the nation like original sin: “We lost our moral compass with him and we’ve never gotten it back … Before Nixon there was so much hope. Since Nixon we have known only the Permanent War.”

When I checked out some more of Leith’s work, I was really pleased to learn yet another new word: wilfing. Desultory reader! may this not be how you reached these pages!



Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Germanophilic readers! I’m really happy to share with you the cover designs for the German (Swiss) and Swedish editions of The Possessed.

Die Besessenen comes out this fall with the super-cool Kein & Aber. I love the image of some chick prostrated, clearly by the power of literature, on a green grass-like background:

german cover

I believe this is a visual allusion to the story of my first-ever magazine photo shoot:

I had to lie on my back on a piece of fluorescent green imitation fur, clutching to my bosom a Russian-language volume of Dostoevsky. The photographer stood over me on a ladder, snapping pictures. His assistant… opined that the pictures were coming out “too sultry”. She said I was showing “too much neck”. Overcoming a sense of injustice – if I hadn’t been lying on my back on some kind of pornographic fur carpet, maybe my neck wouldn’t have looked so sultry – I changed into a higher collar. Because the cover of the Dostoevsky was so brown, we switched to a green leatherette Pushkin. “Look like you’re reading,” the photographer suggested. Opening the book at random, I found myself staring at the epilogue to “The Gypsies”: “There is no defence against fate.”

(You can see the resulting photo on this page – scroll down, or just do a text search for “CAN’T SAY NYET.”)

There is no defense against fate, but against sultriness of the neck, that girl is protected by her upraised arm – just another example of the inimitable Swiss touch of class.