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Posts Tagged ‘Tolstoy’


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.)


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):

tara0001 (1)

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


lntp image



Saturday, September 17th, 2011

A shout-out to Sabri Gürses, Turkish translator of The Possessed, who found some time during a translation conference at Tolstoy’s ancestral estate to take these beautiful pictures!


Volkonsky House, where I too spent many interesting hours…


Ecinniler cimende



Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Having, in a recent post, expressed some concern regarding the global Possessed-to-Labradoodle ratio, I was thrilled to receive the following images of Boswell, Adelaide-based Labradoodle:

Possessed Labradoodle 1


Possessed Labradoodle 2


Possessed Labradoodle 3


A big thanks to James for the moving and inspirational pictures – which, to be totally honest, filled me not only with delight at my widening empire, but also with an inexplicable melancholy.  I so much wished I had a Labradoodle called Boswell!  I think I just really miss my intern, who has been on the other side of the planet for several months now, holding down the US side of business…

Speaking of business, latest 5-star review is up here.


Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Satiated readers!  Please join me in getting excited again about The Possessed, in honor of next week’s UK launch! Conveniently, the book now looks completely different. I thought I would never like any cover as much as Roz Chast’s FSG paperback - but check out the new Granta hardcover, designed byMichael Salu:


FSG paperback, $15

Granta HC, £16.99

I love the original paperback, because it’s so scary and cheap, two of my favorite qualities.  But I also love the new hardcover, because it’s so trippy and classy, two more of my favorite qualities.

The new cover illustration is based on the dream sequence in “Who Killed Tolstoy?”:

I dreamed I was playing tennis against Tolstoy. As Alice in Wonderland plays croquet with a flamingo for a mallet, I was playing tennis with a goose for a racket. Lev Nikolayevich had a normal racket. I served the ball, producing a flurry of fluffy gray down. Tolstoy’s mighty backhand projected the ball far beyond the outermost limits of the tennis lawn, into the infinite dimension of total knowledge and human understanding. Match point.

It is, as Salu explains, “a dual cover, with either Elif or Tolstoy winning the rally depending on how the book is held”:



front (Elif winning) back (Tolstoy winning)