Top Quotes by Elif Batuman

By | March 16, 2016

Every time a meteor comes close to the earth, we all think about the end of the world – but our internal soundtrack doesn’t turn off. We’re also thinking about pizza or passing a slow tractor or making a turn, and for a magical instant, our lives seem to be in conversation with the stars.

Elif Batuman

Read enough about the dung beetle, and a picture of its character emerges: patient, optimistic, uncomplaining.

Elif Batuman

Listing and counting have a spooky, magical power, and the holiday season is a spooky, magical time.

Elif Batuman

Why is there an end of the year? Because the calendar imposes numerical order on time. There is a natural fitness in the celebration of the New Year, a holiday of numbers imposed on things, with lists, as well as with Advent calendars and songs like ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas.’

Elif Batuman

I have always known my mother as an agnostic, less certain than my father that the universe hadn’t been created by some great intelligence. But she would get even more annoyed than my father did when she thought that people were invoking God to do their jobs for them – for example, when she saw a bus with a sticker saying ‘Allah Protect Us.’

Elif Batuman

I like a novel to have a certain amount of dead time and filler – unremarkable scenery, descriptions of getting from point A to point B, dialogue in which not much is said – in between the parts that are electric. With a long work that you don’t read in one sitting, I think that makes for the best reading experience.

Elif Batuman

One of the most painful parts of a breakup is having the feeling that your life is a story, and then the other person leaves and takes the story with them. And you’re left there without it. You’re left in this version of life that’s basically a succession of events and interactions that don’t seem to be going anywhere.

Elif Batuman

When I was growing up, many of my relatives had never seen a black person before. Today, hundreds, maybe thousands of Africans live in Istanbul’s old city alone. It’s hard to imagine their lives in their human totality.

Elif Batuman

When in doubt, it is better to do the less conservative thing and to err on the side of the more colorful, possibly terrible mistake. That comes from thinking of yourself as a writer.

Elif Batuman

My parents were educated in the Turkish system and went straight from high school to medical school; my mom, who had skipped a grade, was dissecting corpses at age seventeen. Growing up in America, I think I envied my parents’ education. By comparison, everything I did in school seemed so sort of low-stakes and infantilizing.

Elif Batuman

The first modern novel was already a product, even an expression, of negative criticism: ‘Don Quixote’ contains a quite explicit critique of the chivalric romance and its insufficiency to account for the way real life feels when you get up in the morning in 17th-century Spain.

Elif Batuman

Many books have changed my life, but only one has the word ‘life-changing’ in the title: Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.’

Elif Batuman

I like to think that I know a lot of words, but I definitely don’t know all of them.

Elif Batuman

For a Nabokov fan, paging through ‘Fine Lines,’ which includes a critical introduction and several essayistic evaluations of Nabokov’s scientific oeuvre, can feel a bit like reading the second half of ‘Pale Fire’: one is confronted by a content-rich, almost dementedly tangential commentary on an increasingly inscrutable work.

Elif Batuman

Reading Epictetus, I realized that most of the pain in my life came not from any actual privations or insults but, rather, from the shame of thinking that they could have been avoided.

Elif Batuman

When I read that nobody should ever feel ashamed to be alone or to be in a crowd, I realized that I often felt ashamed of both of those things.

Elif Batuman

For much of my adult life, I believed, inaccurately, that I knew the story of Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ – that I remembered it from childhood.

Elif Batuman

At the beginning of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Scrooge embodies one of the central tenets of depression: that one has always been this way – and always will be.

Elif Batuman

My parents were born into a secular country. They met in Turkey’s top medical school, moved to America in the nineteen-seventies, and became researchers and professors.

Elif Batuman

I grew up hearing that if it hadn’t been for Ataturk, my grandmother would have been ‘a covered person’ who would have been reliant on a man for her livelihood. Instead, she went to boarding school, wrote a thesis on Balzac, and became a teacher.

Elif Batuman

I felt grateful to Ataturk that my parents were so well educated, that they weren’t held back by superstition or religion, that they were true scientists who taught me how to read when I was three and never doubted that I could become a writer.

Elif Batuman

If, for a moment, it seemed that September 11th could be identified with Iraq, the illusion was short-lived.

Elif Batuman

Awkwardness is the consciousness of a false position.

Elif Batuman

‘Awkward’ implies both solidarity and implication. Nobody is exempt.

Elif Batuman

Awkwardness comes from the realization that, when you look around the world, it’s difficult to identify anyone who isn’t either the victim or the beneficiary of injustice.

Elif Batuman

‘Gone Girl’ is as much about the near impossibility of being a good husband as it is about the anguish of being a good wife.

Elif Batuman

It’s possible to watch ‘Gone Girl’ and feel that you have seen something terribly bleak. But it’s also possible to receive it as good news. Any powerful articulation of the need for change is also a testimony to the possibility of change.

Elif Batuman

Lists are based on realism – on the coldly contemplated finitude of resources.

Elif Batuman

Most Americans have probably heard the song ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’ about a billion times in the supermarket alone.

Elif Batuman

The first time I held an African drum in my hands was at Koc University in a forest in the northern suburbs of Istanbul.

Elif Batuman

Anyone who has ever tried to plot a detective mystery knows that the hardest thing to come up with is motive.

Elif Batuman

I grew up thinking that it was immoral to idealize the past because, in the past, there was slavery and no penicillin.

Elif Batuman

The Himalayan glaciers, China’s trade surplus, Olympic ice hockey – the world is full of pressing subjects that people never consult me about.

Elif Batuman

Tolstoy didn’t know about steampunk or cyborgs, but he did know about the nightmarishness of steam power, unruly machines, and the creepy half-human status of the Russian peasant classes. In ‘Anna Karenina,’ nineteenth-century life itself is a relentless, relentlessly modern machine, flattening those who oppose it.

Elif Batuman

I enjoy a good meal as much as anyone, but I get so confused by nutritional, budgetary, ecological, ethical, aesthetic, and time-management concerns that I often subsist for weeks on instant oatmeal and multivitamins.

Elif Batuman

Soccer is taken extremely seriously in Turkey.

Elif Batuman

‘Constructed Worlds’ comes from a novel draft that I wrote in my early twenties and reread/revised only in my late thirties.

Elif Batuman

There’s a lot to be said for an American-style liberal-arts education, which prevents young people from professionalizing right away.

Elif Batuman

I had wanted to write ‘The Possessed’ as fiction, but everyone told me that no one would read a novel about graduate students. It seems almost uncivilized to tell someone writing a novel, ‘No, you have to call this a memoir.’

Elif Batuman

One of the stories that really impressed me was ‘Anna Karenina.’ As a novel, that made an impression on me, showing me what the novel can do.

Elif Batuman

I love the novelist’s freedom of going into different people’s subjectivity and being able to work with them as characters.

Elif Batuman

I’m Turkish-American; I was a freshman at Harvard in 1995 and 96. I did teach English in Hungary in the summer of 1996. I’m an autobiographical writer in the sense that whether in fiction or nonfiction, the issues and relationships and phenomena and problems I’m most interested in exploring are the ones I’ve experienced personally.

Elif Batuman

Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time,’ especially ‘Time Regained,’ made me think differently about what the novel is and can do. Then I forgot about it, then reread it and remembered again.

Elif Batuman

I actually really wish I had written ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ as an unreliably narrated novel that is also a self-help book.

Elif Batuman

I don’t believe in being ashamed about not having read things.

Elif Batuman

No time you spend writing will be wasted – even if you write something that’s bad.

Elif Batuman

Everyone has a certain amount of bad writing to get out of their system.

Elif Batuman

It’s important not to censor yourself and not to get upset or demoralized when you write bad stuff.

Elif Batuman

The one text that most changed my opinion on criticism was probably Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams,’ which I read in college.

Elif Batuman

Much as there are things about our own life stories that we can learn only from the systematic study of our dreams, there are things about the human condition that we can learn only from a systematic study of literature.

Elif Batuman

I always wanted to write novels, even before I had read a lot of novels or had a very good idea of what they were.

Elif Batuman

The novel is like a melancholy form. It’s about some kind of disillusionment with the way things are versus the idea of how they could be or how they used to be.

Elif Batuman

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