Elif Batuman on Life as Literature

Elif Batuman joins Joshua Jelly-Schapiro to discuss Batuman’s new book Either/Or, a novel that has given us new ways to think—and laugh—about how books shape our lives.

In her acclaimed debut novel The Idiot, Batuman introduced us to Selin, a reluctant protagonist and unforgettable narrator searching her way through freshman year at Harvard, grappling with the confusions of first love and the growing realization that she is doomed to become a writer. In Either/Or, it’s sophomore year and Selin’s quest for self-knowledge finds her trying to figure out the meaning of everything that happened over the summer. But then she sets out, with a prod from Kierkegaard, to seek the kinds of experiences she’ll need in order to ponder a lasting question: how does one live a life as interesting as a novel—a life worthy of becoming a novel—without going crazy? ♦