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Sunday 24 June 2018

Books I Have Not Finished: Elif Batuman The Idiot

I review books here on the promise that I have read them cover to cover. So there is really no trace of the many books I have started but not finished, probably for many different reasons. Sometimes I have forced myself to finish a book in order to review it and for the past 150 pages I have been reading Elif Batuman’s The Idiot in that spirit. 

It started well enough: she is clever and funny and I bookmarked a few passages to quote. It’s easy to imagine how she is a successful staff writer on the New Yorker – though I remember that Jessa Crispin once called that publication “like a dentist magazine”.

The problem is the absence of plot. One reviewer quoted on the cover of my edition calls it “an addictive, sprawling epic”. I agree about the sprawling. The long drawn-out non-relationship relationship between Selin and Ivan seemed to be going nowhere except geographically at the point where I gave up on the book (page 269, shortly after a cast of new and re-assembled characters had been perfunctorily introduced and finally persuaded me to give up). 

It may well be that Selin comes of age in the 150 pages I am not going to read, but I am afraid that for this reader she is taking too long about it.

I suppose I should formally record Ceci n’est pas une critique du livre

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