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Elif Batuman’s The Idiot was one of the best books of 2017: weird and funny and tender and deeply, obsessively fixated on language. It’s a tricky and compelling book to talk about, which is why I am so relieved that as the Vox Book Club spends September discussing The Idiot, we’ll be able to call in the big guns. On Wednesday, September 30, at 5 pm, we’ll be talking with Batuman herself live on Zoom, and you can RSVP now.
The Idiot is a strange campus novel for this very strange back-to-school season. It concerns 18-year-old Selin, who is a freshman at Harvard in 1995, just as email is becoming widely adopted. Selin wants to study language, to figure out what words are and why they can’t just be the things they mean, but the more she studies them, the more confused she gets. When she kicks off an email correspondence with a boy in her Russian class, her confusion becomes total.
There’s tons to talk about here: language, semiotics, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the lost art of email correspondence, and why flirting is so confusing. (Truly, the boy from the Russian class does not deserve Selin.) And I am so excited to get to delve into it all with Batuman, and with you too.
Our first discussion post on The Idiot will go up on Friday, September 11, and our live event will be on September 30 at 5 pm Eastern. We’ll talk until 5:45 pm, with the last 10 minutes reserved for questions from the audience, and at the end of the event, I’ll reveal our October book pick. We would love to see you there. RSVP now, and be sure to sign up for the Vox Book Club newsletter to make sure you don’t miss anything.