Review of The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Ramblings of a college student. Talk of books we’ve all read. Mostly harmless opinions.
Prickling sensations seeming to indicate a love so ill-defined yet ever-present. Swimming, drinking, taking classes, taxi rides. Typical privileged college-age money mismanagement. A narrator who claims to be a writer but rarely, if ever, writes anything. Love letters. Nascent email drama. Retro vibes. A lot more innocence than expected. Young people not talking about their feelings.
It’s basically Ali Smith. But different, of course, in fundamental ways. But similar texture. A relatable perspective. You could analyze it, breeze through it, pick apart some of its spurious comparisons and far-fetched similes, but it’s easier just to let it wash over you. An amusing sitcom. A distraction from the insanity of real life. Live vicariously through this directionless young adult. Hearkens back to the times of not “figuring it out” but simply floating around, standing around public places gawking at things and having nonsensical conversations. The accuracy of the conversation is both startling and depressing. It’s not a slow burn. It’s not even a burn. There’s no heat. No sizzle. But there are a lot of quiet, moody, cheeky comments. Historical spidey senses are tingling. Cultural awareness. I’m picking up hints of pretension, but it finishes smooth. You can see the smudge marks where she might have pushed herself into a discomfort zone but then reeled her pen back into the safe margin. I remember what it felt like to care what other people thought of you. This book reminded me of many things, most of them semi-pleasant. The complete lack of stylistic density contributed to a best-sellerish disposability.
Still, her new book will likely find its way onto my audiobook queue.
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