Posts Tagged ‘fact-checking’


Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Dear readers!  I am still greatly chagrined about having to miss not only the Chicago reading but also the visit to Redlands University, where I had been enormously looking forward to meeting Alisa Slaughter, Joy Manesiotis (author of a very beautiful and apropos poem about lamenting women), and their students, whom I thank for their interest in The Possessed, and whom I very much hope to meet at some point in the future.

In the meantime, tolerant readers, you may or may not be filled with admiration to learn that I was able to spare a moment from my rigorous program of swamp-related activity in order to deliver a 200-word opinion on the future of evolutionary-psychological literary criticism, for which purpose I temporarily assumed the form of a miniscule talking head:


The original of that tiny photograph was taken by super-chef Musa Dağdeviren and, in its uncropped version, shows me holding a bunch of greens known in Turkish as “snake’s pillow” or “heathen’s beet.”



The beautiful future

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Dear readers, thanks for all the kind comments on “Safe Laughs,” as well as for notifying me that I-14, a bit like the Lev Tolstoy Accordion Academy, is at this point only a beautiful dream of the future, and the road one was actually driving down in 2007 was California State Route 14.  I have just posted those outtakes here—they include Dostoevsky’s prophetic analysis of the psychology of road rage.

In other beautiful fictions, the FSG winter 2010 catalog is now available online, and if waiting for enormous pdf files to load is one of your special hobbies, I warmly encourage you to check it out.  All others will have to content themselves with this excerpt:

In The Possessed we watch [Batuman] investigate a possible murder at Tolstoy’s ancestral estate. We go with her to Stanford, Switzerland, and St. Petersburg; retrace Pushkin’s wanderings in the Caucasus; learn why Old Uzbek has one hundred different words for crying; and see an eighteenth-century ice palace reconstructed on the Neva.

Although “Stanford, Switzerland, and St. Petersburg” certainly has a nice ring, there is this interesting circumstance that I have never, to the best of my knowledge, actually been to Switzerland.  Yet. I figure the Macmillan group can see into the future, and that must be the subject of my next book.  Avanti!


This clock tells the time of the future.

Thanks a lot, Caroline Kennedy

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Speaking of Russian giants, people sometimes ask me: "What happened with the giant Russian bells?  Weren’t they supposed to come out in January?"  Well, I’ll tell you what happened.  The New Yorker was all set to close the piece on Thursday January 22, and I couldn’t have been more filled with girlish excitement and disbelief had I been offered a personal audience with the Tooth Fairy. Alas, at 7AM on Wednesday January 21, I received an email from my editor, announcing that the bells were being bumped due to "the last-minute advent of a guerilla piece on Caroline Kennedy (which, after all, must be run while CK is still a halfway credible senatorial contender)." 
Well, I just wanted to take this moment to say: Thanks a lot, Caroline Kennedy.  I’m so glad you stayed in the senatorial race just long enough to displace my eight-month-old article about giant Russian bells before withdrawing from consideration at like 6:30PM that same evening. 
CAROLINE KENNEDY giant russian bell

Caroline Kennedy vs. Giant Russian Bell: similar, but not quite the same.


Was Tolstoy… MURDERED?

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Dear readers!  I am happy to relate that my piece called "The Murder of Leo Tolstoy: A Forensic Investigation" is in the February issue of Harper’s magazine, which subscribers can already read online—it has a really amazing piece of original artwork by Steven Dana which I will post here, if it turns out not to violate any copyright.  In the meantime, tiny, law-abiding people, like the ones who live in Lech Walesa’s mustache, might enjoy looking at a tiny, legal reproduction.  And also at a picture of home and its environs, back in the day.

image walesa_jung

"The Murder of Leo Tolstoy" is about how I went to an International Tolstoy Conference at Tolstoy’s house in Yasnaya Polyana, and tried to determine whether Tolstoy died of natural causes or was… MURDERED.  It has some interesting generic features, e.g. I originally wrote it in the form of a short story.  Then my editor was like, "But it all really happened, right?", and I was like, “Well, pretty much,” and, to make a long story short, it was put in the Miscellany section, as a literary memoir, and was even assigned a fact-checker—you know, to fact-check my memoir.