March 22, 2010
Every night I dream of Russia. Nineteenth-century Russia, as I bounce back and forth between Moscow, Petersburg, and various country estates.
All because of The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, by Elif Batuman.
Writing in the New York Times Book Review, critic Liesl Schillinger captures the book's essence.
Hilarious, wide-ranging, erudite and memorable, “The Possessed” is a sui generis feast for the mind and the fancy [...]. And, unlikely though this may sound, by the time you’ve reached the end, you just may wish that you, like the author, had fallen down the rabbit hole of comp lit grad school.
I couldn't wait to read Russian novels after finishing Batuman's essays. Thus, my own adventures with War and Peace—and gala evenings at the opera, duels, and dashing counts, not to mention chaotic military skirmishes and bleaker-than-bleak field hospitals. I had avoided Tolstoy's epic forever, but it's not hard to read. Just long. And glorious. That, too.
Three weeks in, I'm halfway through. If you'll excuse me for the moment, I have a couple of pages between here and the end, on page 1215.
Das vi danya.
If you've any suggestions for current Russian children's books, esp picture books (in translation or in Russian), I'd love to hear about them.
Posted by: Zoe @ Playing by the book | March 25, 2010 at 09:42 AM
Zoe, wouldn't that be great! I wish I knew of some to recommend. Maybe someone will chime in--and I'll ask on Twitter later. Kane-Miller publishes many children's books in translation; try checking that publisher's web site.
Posted by: Susan (Chicken Spaghetti) | March 25, 2010 at 10:09 AM
I loved that review -- and definitely have that book on my list.
Posted by: Michelle | March 25, 2010 at 09:14 PM
Tell me what you think when you read it, Meechelle! I just loved it. Parts are so funny.
Posted by: Susan (Chicken Spaghetti) | March 26, 2010 at 08:21 AM
Thanks Susan! I'll check back later to see if Twitter yields any results!
Posted by: Zoe @ Playing by the book | March 26, 2010 at 12:35 PM
Zoe, I asked around at the Child_Lit email list and at Twitter and got a bunch of suggestions. These books sound really good & I look forward to reading some, too. Here's a link to the post:
Posted by: Susan (Chicken Spaghetti) | March 29, 2010 at 11:29 AM
My problem with Russian lit is the names. First, everyone has a name. Then, there are two or three diminutives for each name. I can never keep up.
Posted by: Cindy Thomsen | April 04, 2010 at 01:15 PM
I'm normally a couple books a week gal. I have 200 pages left to Anna Karenina. I started back in February. It isn't slow, but it does put me to sleep. I don't get very far at three pages a night. I am currently sneaking in my second super quick read. But golly I do miss consuming plots.
Posted by: Christie | April 08, 2010 at 02:46 AM
I bought it -- it's in the stack!
Posted by: Michelle | April 26, 2010 at 09:07 PM
I hope you like it!
I am reading Vanity Fair right now. I had the idea because I read that it was also set during the Napoleonic Wars. So different from War & Peace--very satirical. I shouldn't have chosen such a long book--800 pages--though, after War & Peace (1200 pages).
Posted by: Susan T. | April 29, 2010 at 10:19 AM