Lawrence's Reviews > The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them

The Possessed by Elif Batuman
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's review
Jan 30, 11

Read from January 04 to 20, 2011

On the whole and speaking as someone who loves Russian writers, I liked this book. It is part literary theory, part apologia for the academic study of literature, part memoir, part travelogue. I liked the content very much as well as the theorizing. I enjoyed the couple of passage in conversation with her mother and appreciated the boldness of her critique of creative writing programs.

The problem for me: I am not sure of the book's tone. That is, I am just not sure when, and if, Ms. Batuman means to be funny. She can describe persons and events in a very funny way (e.g., the conference at Yasnaya Polyana, the Isaak Babel dinner), but also very coldly and without empathy. I look forward to more of Ms. Batuman's writing.

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