the writing life #8

I took a fairly dry science class with Elif Batuman about ten years ago. The teacher, as I recall, was a Russian man, who seemed unsure what to do with us and vaguely terrified to find himself among us savages. Back to Elif: I remember her as an effortlessly clever gal who wore her jeans well and who was an intimate of my long lost friend, Dan, (who always had a knack for making the most interesting friends).

From a review of her book The Possessed in O Magazine.
“I now understand that love is a rare and valuable thing, and you don’t get to choose its object,” Batuman writes. “You just go around getting hung up on all the least convenient things—and if the only obstacle in your way is a little extra work, then that’s the wonderful gift right there.”

This, for the record, is completely lovely. I can’t wait to read this book. (An ecstatic review ran in today’s NY Times as well.)*

I stumbled across the O review while deciding whether to watch or write through today’s Oprah which is about the families of serial killers. I will be watching. (In the broadest sense, the topic falls under research for my next book, which I have almost completed and thus requires no further research.)

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*My favorite excerpt from that review: The problem with creative writing programs, she says, is their obsession with craft. “What did craft ever try to say about the world, the human condition, or the search for meaning?” Ms. Batuman asks. “All it had were its negative dictates: ‘Show, don’t tell’; ‘Murder your darlings’; ‘Omit needless words.’ As if writing were a matter of overcoming bad habits — of omitting needless words.”