Posts Tagged ‘events’


Monday, September 12th, 2011

Esteemed readers! I just returned to Istanbul yesterday, after some sorely needed downtime. The weather is beautiful, the three-inch-long locusts seem to have gone back wherever they came from, Ramadan is over, and I’m happy to be back!

If you’re also in Istanbul these days, please come to the super-cool SALT gallery this Wednesday, where I will be participating in a program called 90, consisting of “lectures, tours, and presentations seeking to answer questions about contemporary Istanbul.” I personally will be seeking to answer the important question of how Istanbul is shaped by football fanaticism.

In other news, I have a couple of short new publications out: a Talk of the Town item on 9/11, in this week’s New Yorker, and a blog post on Solzhenitsyn at Salon. Also, I don’t remember if I posted already this writerly musing about my workplace, but can anyone ever get enough about interior decoration?

There is also some nice news about The Possessed, which has not only been named a runner-up for a PEN/ Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award (for exemplifying the dignity and esteem of the essay form!), but was also recently longlisted for the Guardian First Book award.

Lastly, I’m honored to relate to Swiss and other readers that I will appear next month in Zurich’s Salongespräche series, which my publisher charmingly translated as “Saloon Talks,” and which I imagine going down like this:

saloon talks

OK compadres, that’s all for now… hope to see some of you soon!


Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Disembodied readers!  I was so happy to meet several of you at my and Kaya Genç’s blogging talk on Saturday.  Those who couldn’t make it missed an opportunity to watch me knock over a largeish glass of water, but don’t worry, I’m sure it will happen again.

At the conclusion of the event, which I personally enjoyed a great deal, I was gently but firmly escorted to the roof of the building, where I had a nice long interview with Aktüel magazine, followed by a 1.5-hour photo shoot during which I was immortalized: (a) leaning playfully over the bannister at the top of a long flight of stairs; (b) perched on a wall; and (c) ensconced inside some kind of gigantic avant-garde porthole.  During the porthole stage, as I was trying very hard to turn my aggrieved expression upside-down, I overheard one of the publicists tell her colleague: “I think we are going to read about this on Elif’s blog tomorrow.”

These exertions made me really enthusiastic to get back to Pilates class on Monday. Imagine my feelings when I sat down on my foam mat, in a sea of young people sitting on identical foam mats, and the instructor looked right at me and said: “I read your interview in Milliyet over the weekend.”  “Did you,” I said.  We began to discuss my writing career and plans for the future. At some point, she asked a question whose answer depended on my having read the interview, which I hadn’t. 

“I’m not able to read interviews,” I explained.

“You’re… not able to??” she repeated, with a look of shock.  In this way I realized that the Pilates instructor thought I was confessing to illiteracy.

“Alas, I have not yet been bitten by the black stallion of literacy.”



Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Prolific readers!  I am happy to announce a new accretion to the growing folklore of how tall I am, via email from super-novelist Jim Harrison.

Harrison, to Batuman:

I felt so bad to hear from a friend that you were very tall and didn’t see your little dog that you sat on and crushed. The dog will either forgive you in heaven or not which is a possibility. Dog heaven is the size of Missouri. Sometimes a million of them swim across the Mississippi at once.  Obviously they no longer poop. […]


Batuman, to Harrison:

that dog-crushing story is pure apocrypha!!  may i put it on my blog?


Harrison, to Batuman:

A relief to find you didn’t murder the little fellow.  Tall people go through the world inadvertently kicking little creatures.  They shall be judged.  Put it on your blog since I don’t really know what a blog is.  An elephant turd?


Well there you have it, inscribed on the giant elephant turd that is My Life and Thoughts. Ironically, or maybe unironically, I am giving a talk to explain what blogs are, this very Saturday at the Koç University Anatolian Research Institute in Beyoğlu (info here chez my heroic copanelist, Kaya Genç) – a great chance for people in Istanbul to spot me not-in-the-forest, and also of course to learn what a blog is.  In English/ Turkish with simultaneous translation.

I return now to my important blog-related researches, though not without a worry in the corner of my mind: what if I really did sit on a tiny dog and didn’t even notice it because I am so very tall?

cockapoo (1)


Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Globalized readers!  I’m just back from my first visit to Ireland, where I was really happy and honored to read at the Cúirt Festival in Galway with Geoff Dyer, one of my favorite writers about books.

In light of the recent kind comments from Anthony Powell fans, I will cite one line I particularly admired in Dyer’s Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi:

In some ways the [Venice] Biennale was like A Dance to the Music of Time condensed into four days: the same people cropping up, expectedly and unexpectedly, generally looking somewhat the worse for wear.

I remembered this line when I reached the description of the Biennale in Temporary Kings (Volume Eleven of Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time): it isn’t clear why Ada is there with Glober, and whether the artifact made of “zinc, horsehair, patent leather and cardboard” in the French pavilion is supposed to look German-African or German-Japanese, and I thought that Dyer must have had this passage in mind, that there must have been the idea on some level of collapsing the whole twelve novels into the Biennale scene.  But he told me in the taxi from the airport that he never actually got past volume five!

Anyway, I had an amazing time in Galway. I had barely been in town fifteen minutes when a kind editor bought me a pint of something called a Galway Hooker. Later, a wonderful local artist drove me and Dyer to a beach in Connemara, where we climbed on some rocks and looked at the Aran Islands.1  The local artist found some seaweed that she was pretty sure was the kind of seaweed which, if you soak it in very hot bath water and squeeze it, produces a lovely aloe-vera-like gel, although she wasn’t positive, it might have been just ordinary seaweed.  She offered some to me and Dyer to put in our baths, but we both declined.


I greatly enjoyed our reading and discussion, which took place that afternoon at the super-old and potentially haunted Druid Theater, to a fantastic crowd with names like Fionnghuala and Saoirse.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to inscribe copies of one’s book to people with such beautiful names!

I was also very moved by the combined monument to Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde, a gift to Galway from the Estonian people (the original is in Tartu). It commemorates a meeting that did not take place in 1892.

wilde vilde

Here’s to conversations between writers, both the ones that really happened and the ones that didn’t!

  1. As a college freshman I remember having to write a response paper to a 3-minute sequence in The Man of Aran (1934), involving a woman rocking a cradle.  I don’t think I ever felt more despair about any writing assignment before or since.  Little did I know I would ever stand on a rock and look at the Aran Islands as part of a book festival!


Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

My new go-to Kindle drunk-dialing author these days is Anthony Powell, whose twelve-volume A Dance to the Music of Time I cannot over-recommend for those needing to unwind in bed, with or without a drink.  When you finish one volume, you press a button, and there’s a new one right there!  Eleven times!  It’s like the future!  Not to show off, but, the way my memory is going, by the time I get to volume 12 I’ll probably have forgotten what happened in volume 1 anyway, so this could potentially keep me entertained for the rest of my days.

I’m also happy to report that Anthony Powell is improving my vocabulary, as I discovered yesterday when I got an email attachment from my super UK publicist, with the note: “More bumpf from [institution deleted].”

I realized that I knew the meaning of “bumpf,” i.e., pointless paperwork.  But, how did I know?  Was it metempsychosis?  No, it was Anthony Powell.  When I searched for “bumpf” (bumf, bumph) on the Kindle, I got like 14 hits, including this one from Volume 10 (Books Do Furnish a Room):

“I had quite enough of shuffling the bumf round when I was in the army. As a result I’ve developed a positive mania these days against pushing paper.”

As you can see, Powell is really good at conveying the meaning of a potentially unfamiliar word through context clues.  In this way, you can enrich your personal lexicon even when you are drunk and half-asleep.

In honor of my rapidly impending trip to the United Kingdom, I decided to look up bumf in a dictionary.  It turns out to be a contraction for “bum fodder,” originally used to designate toilet paper. Interestingly, the word seems to have retained its literal meaning primarily in China.


See also here.

Sorry to British readers, who knew all about bumf already!