Thursday, February 04, 2010



I'm immersed in NBCC reading, but every now and then this cheating heart picks up a non-NBCC title for some spiritual refreshment. This morning it was Elif Batuman's The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, which looks right up my alley (maybe in March). I was relishing a passage about Tolstoy and Chekhov, the two mighty poles of Russian letters, roughly representing wild-eyed spirit and unflappable matter, when I came across this gem:
The last meetings between Tolstoy and Chekhov took place in Yalta, where Chekhov had gone to die. One day in Yalta, Tolstoy put his arm around Chehkov. "My dear friend, I beg of you," he said, "do stop writing plays!" Another time, when the two writers were gazing at the sea, Tolstoy demanded, "Were you very profligate in your youth?" Chekhov was speechless with embarrassment. Tolstoy, glaring out at the horizon, announced, "I was insatiable!"

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Yes! Insatiable. Why does it end? If not, I suppose we'd never have their work. Thanks.
The West Coast has one notable advantage over you NYC-dwellers: We have Elif Batuman. You might want to check out my post at the Book Haven on her reading at Kepler's earlier this month.

Cheers, James!
(p.s. Click on my name above for the blog -- I didn't want to clutter my short greeting with a URL!)
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