This is a book review of a book about a serious obsession with books. That Elif Batuman's literary fixation happens to be with Russian books almost seems arbitrary, but, in a way, also destined: Originally a linguistics major, Batuman (a Turkish American academic in comparative literature) chose Russian as her foreign language requirement, only to find the abstraction of linguistics giving way to the much more compelling stories, culture, and language of Russia itself. Looking back, Batuman writes, "Love is a rare and valuable thing, and you don't get to choose its object."
As a book reviewer who was also once a linguistics major ultimately drawn to literature, there is some inherent bias in my enthusiasm for this book. But that, in some ways, is the point of Batuman's work: Literature and life are always intersecting; the reader is bound to find symbols, comparisons, and significance ...
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The Steady Running of the Hour
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