I can’t really comment on her new book, The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, but I can say that based on things I’ve read by and about Elif Batuman in the past, I’m willing to place my money in the “I’m going to like this” category.
” She’s obsessed, above all, with the strange angles at which classic literature intersects with the world. She witnesses backstage sniping at an international Isaac Babel conference (“Is it true that you despise me?,” one of Babel’s daughters keeps asking one of the scholars), attends a Tolstoy conference at the Tolstoy estate (horses copulate outside the window while she’s giving her paper), and studies Uzbek literature with crazy teachers in Uzbekistan (one teacher tells her that the Uzbek author Qahhor “wrote in the style of Chekhov, but at a one-thousand-times higher level”).”
2. Batuman’s essay in Harper’s last year: “The Murder of Leo Tolstoy”.
3. I just got the e-mail about the upcoming film issue of The Believer, which will include Batuman discussing screenplays by Nabokov, Churchill, and Sartre.