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Either/Or
Cover of Either/Or
Either/Or
An instant New York Times bestseller!
“Batuman has a gift for making the universe seem, somehow, like the benevolent and witty literary seminar you wish it were . . .This novel wins you over in a million micro-observations.” —The New York Times
From the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Idiot, the continuation of beloved protagonist Selin’s quest for self-knowledge, as she travels abroad and tests the limits of her newfound adulthood

Selin is the luckiest person in her family: the only one who was born in America and got to go to Harvard. Now it’s sophomore year, 1996, and Selin knows she has to make it count. The first order of business: to figure out the meaning of everything that happened over the summer. Why did Selin’s elusive crush, Ivan, find her that job in the Hungarian countryside? What was up with all those other people in the Hungarian countryside? Why is Ivan’s weird ex-girlfriend now trying to get in touch with Selin? On the plus side, it feels like the plot of an exciting novel. On the other hand, why do so many novels have crazy abandoned women in them? How does one live a life as interesting as a novel—a life worthy of becoming a novel—without becoming a crazy abandoned woman oneself?
Guided by her literature syllabus and by her more worldly and confident peers, Selin reaches certain conclusions about the universal importance of parties, alcohol, and sex, and resolves to execute them in practice—no matter what the cost. Next on the list: international travel.
Unfolding with the propulsive logic and intensity of youth, Either/Or is a landmark novel by one of our most brilliant writers. Hilarious, revelatory, and unforgettable, its gripping narrative will confront you with searching questions that persist long after the last page.
An instant New York Times bestseller!
“Batuman has a gift for making the universe seem, somehow, like the benevolent and witty literary seminar you wish it were . . .This novel wins you over in a million micro-observations.” —The New York Times
From the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Idiot, the continuation of beloved protagonist Selin’s quest for self-knowledge, as she travels abroad and tests the limits of her newfound adulthood

Selin is the luckiest person in her family: the only one who was born in America and got to go to Harvard. Now it’s sophomore year, 1996, and Selin knows she has to make it count. The first order of business: to figure out the meaning of everything that happened over the summer. Why did Selin’s elusive crush, Ivan, find her that job in the Hungarian countryside? What was up with all those other people in the Hungarian countryside? Why is Ivan’s weird ex-girlfriend now trying to get in touch with Selin? On the plus side, it feels like the plot of an exciting novel. On the other hand, why do so many novels have crazy abandoned women in them? How does one live a life as interesting as a novel—a life worthy of becoming a novel—without becoming a crazy abandoned woman oneself?
Guided by her literature syllabus and by her more worldly and confident peers, Selin reaches certain conclusions about the universal importance of parties, alcohol, and sex, and resolves to execute them in practice—no matter what the cost. Next on the list: international travel.
Unfolding with the propulsive logic and intensity of youth, Either/Or is a landmark novel by one of our most brilliant writers. Hilarious, revelatory, and unforgettable, its gripping narrative will confront you with searching questions that persist long after the last page.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover

    The First Week

     

    It was dark when I got to Cambridge. I pulled my mother's suitcase over the cobblestones toward the river. Riley had been really mad when we were assigned to Mather, and not to one of the historic ivy-covered brick buildings where young men had lived in ancient times with their servants. But I wasn't into history, so I liked that the rooms in Mather were all singles, and nobody had to figure out how to share an irregularly sized suite where people had lived with their servants.

     

    I hadn't spoken to Ivan since July, when we said goodbye in a parking lot on the Danube. We hadn't exchanged phone numbers, since we were both going to be traveling, and anyway we never had talked much on the phone. But I had never doubted that, when I got back to school, I would find an email from him, explaining everything. It was not, after all, conceivable that there was no explanation, or that the explanation could come from anyone else, or that it could come in any way other than email, since that was how everything had always happened between us.

     

    Mather resembled an alien starship: impregnable, simultaneously ancient and futuristic, gathering its powers. I held my ID card in front of the reader, and the door to the computer room clicked open. I found myself remembering a book I'd read where a woman looked in a mirror for the first time after seven years in a gulag, and the face looking back wasn't her own, but that of her mother. I immediately recognized how shameful, self-important, and obtuse it was for me, an American college student who hadn't checked email for three months, to compare herself to a political prisoner who had spent seven years in a gulag. But it was too late-I had already thought of it.

     

    I mistyped my password twice before I got it right. Information started cascading down the screen, first about the computer itself and the different protocols it was using, then about when and where it had last seen me, and finally the sentence that sent a jolt to my heart: You have new mail.

     

    Ivan's name was there, just like I had known it would be. Before reading the message through, I looked at it all at once, to see how long it was and what it was like. Right away, I could tell something was wrong. So something is wrong, I read. I saw the words shocked and monster: I am very shocked that you see me as such a monster, it said. I know you won't believe anything I say. And: I hope you will tell me why I am so horrible, so that I can defend myself.

     

    I had to reread the whole message twice before I understood that it was three months old. Ivan had sent it in June, in response to an angry email I had sent him before leaving campus. Technically, his reply had been invalidated by all the things that had happened between us in the intervening months. But it still felt like a new and final word from him, because, although there were several other messages in the in-box, none was from Ivan. He hadn't written anything to me at all since that day in the parking lot-since he had held me so close to him, and then gotten in his car and driven away.

     

    Most of the other emails were also months old and out-of-date. There was one from Peter that said, I desperately need to know your flight arrival time in Budapest, and another from Riley asking if it was OK to apply to overflow housing so we wouldn't have to live in Mather. Only two messages were from the past couple of days. One said that I had to see my financial aid officer at the earliest opportunity. The other, from the new president of the Turkish Students Association, said that somebody had found a store in...

About the Author-
  • Elif Batuman’s first novel, The Idiot, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK. She is also the author of The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism. She has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2010 and holds a PhD in comparative literature from Stanford University.

     
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 7, 2022
    In this effervescent sequel to The Idiot, Batuman continues charting the sentimental education of Selin, a student of Russian literature at Harvard. As Selin begins her sophomore year in 1996, she’s still nursing an unrequited crush on Ivan, a Hungarian graduate student. Meanwhile, her friends Svetlana and Riley begin dating boys on campus, causing Selin to lament their perceived loss of independence (after Svetlana hooks up with the guy she’ll end up with, Selin predicts, “She would never again be what she had been, not in my life, and not in her own”). Observant, defiant, and newly on antidepressants, Selin approaches the mystery of human relations with a beginner’s naivete and sharp intelligence. At parties, in dorm rooms, and through reading French, Russian, and German literature and philosophy, she reflects on the tragic asymmetry of connections between men and women, and wonders how, exactly, “a person could live an aesthetic life.” Meanwhile, she recounts her frustrations with Proust and reverence for Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill, and embarks on a messy series of email threads with Ivan and his ex-girlfriend. Batuman’s light touch and humor are brought to bear on serious questions, enabling the novel to move quickly between set pieces like an S&M-themed student party, poignant recollections of Selin’s parents’ divorce, and a harrowing travelogue as Selin begins a summer job in Turkey. As accomplished as The Idiot was, this improves upon it, and Batuman’s already sharp chops as a novelist come across as even more refined in these pages. Readers will be enraptured. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency.

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