The Idiot
April 9, 2018 11:57 AM - by Elif Batuman - Subscribe

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.
posted by DirtyOldTown (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did I really never comment on this? This is great. A person could argue that it was difficult in some ways or slight in others, but I think that was kind of the point. This is a novel about what it's like to have high-level intellectual powers, even as you're lagging behind when it comes to dating/romance/friendships/relationships.

This is true: Selin is a late blooming, awkward young woman clumsily entering into a pseudo-relationship that amounts to nothing and puffing it up enormously to her detriment.

This is also true: Selin is an extraordinary mind who is able to found fascination and resonance in the smallest interactions. This makes her both drolly hilarious and exasperating.

I really look forward to Batuman's next book.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:56 AM on December 10, 2018

I love how this book really gets what it's like to have confusing relationships in college where you have no idea what's going. I don't miss that time at all, but it was fun to look back. Batuman's writing is also just so funny. I kept laughing out loud in surprise at how accurate and hilarious her observations were.
posted by carolr at 11:17 AM on January 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

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