Ex Libris Kirkland

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Subtitle Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
First Written 2010
Genre Lit Crit
Origin US
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-10 0374532184
ISBN-13 978-0374532185
My Copy library paperback
First Read May 25, 2010

The Possessed

Your mileage may vary, but I found Elif Batuman's pretty-funny book about studying Russian literature at its best when describing her studies abroad. Summer in Samarkand, traveling in Tashkent, and dealing with daily life around the periphery of the former USSR. Best read as a series of essays, the way they were first written, rather one mashed-up memoir.

Noted on May 30, 2010

My mother claimed never to have heard of half the cities on the list.

One city was called Tokat, which literally means "a slap in the face." ... The "Ottoman slap"--a technique developed in the Ottoman army, where punching was considered bad form--is known as Osmanli tokat (or more grammatically, Osmalnli tokatd), and if you enter this term in YouTube you will see hundreds of Turkish people getting slapped in the face, mostly by other Turkish people, although also, in one case, by a monkey. My mother had particularly bad feelings about my going to Tokat.

Quoted on May 25, 2010

What did you know about Uzbekistan once you learned that Old Uzbek had a hundred different words for crying? I wasn't sure, but it didn't seem to bode well for my summer vacation.

Quoted on May 30, 2010

Her street at that hour was quiet and deserted. A few times I saw a chicken walking around importantly, like some kind of a regional manager.

Quoted on May 25, 2010

[on writing for Let's Go] ...the exasperating twentieth-century discourse of "shoestring travel": the quest for an idyll where, for three US dollars, Mustafa would serve you a home-cooked meal and tell you about his hair collection. The worst part of this discourse was its specious left-wing rhetoric, as if it were a form of sticking it to the man to reject a chain motel in favor of a cold-water pension completely filled with owls.

Quoted on May 25, 2010

That's how it is: Pushkin is everywhere. To this day, "Pushkin" is used interchangeably with the phrase "somebody's uncle" in Russian expressions such as: "And who will foot the bill--Pushkin?"

Quoted on May 25, 2010

It struck me as narrow-minded to privilege historical events, simply because things happened to have worked out that way. Why be a slave to the arbitrary truth? I didn't care about truth; I cared about beauty. It took me many years--it took the experience of lived time--to realize that they really are the same thing.

Quoted on May 25, 2010

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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