The whole first week [of school] was depressing. I spent nine hours of it shivering, wrapped in a Gogolian coat, through a nine hour documentary about the Holocaust. At some point I thought I had grown a lump in my thigh, but it turned out to be a tangerine-- it had fallen through a hole in the pocket and ended up trapped in the lining.
I spend a lot of time listening to teenagers. I sit there, patiently, and savor the simple fact that I am no longer 18 and confused about everything. I'm now 28 and only confused about most things. The Idiot, a 2018 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, is yet another reminder that being 18 is hard. Selin, Batuman's main character, is a freshman at Harvard trying to make it through #allthethings. She chokes down her first beer (tastes like urine), feigns sleep so that her roommates don't try to talk to her (they're annoying), and has her first all consuming crush on a hot, Hungarian math student named Ivan (he already has a girlfriend). At the beginning of the novel, you can tell that Selin is a bit of a loner. She is hyper intellectual and has trouble expressing her emotions in a way anyone can understand. Generally, reviewers find Selin impossible to relate to (readers overwhelmingly label her as "strange" and "weird"). While I'm not sure if I relate to Selin, I am sure that I find her HILARIOUS. I can overlook all her intellectual pretensions just because she's so damn funny.
Batuman is a crazy gifted writer. As Roxane Gay writes in her review of The Idiot: "Man, this is just a writer showing off how well she can write." The Idiot is a dense, character driven novel. If you're someone who likes page turners/thrillers/action, this is probably not for you (you're really missing out though).
"The sofa bed was designed for someone different from me-- not just smaller but also, it seemed to me, with a different personality."