My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A must-read for anyone devoted hopelessly, helplessly, and sometimes even selfishly to books and authors. Full of delightful literary criticism, memoir, personality sketches, and excursions temporal and otherwise, The Possessed is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. It's also very funny and will add book after book to the mountain of books you were already intending to read. I had some quibbles with Batuman's attack on MFA programs in the Introduction, even though some of her points were well-taken. I also think that at times, the author's flat narrative voice can cast a tone of mockery on people that I doubt she meant to mock, such as her dedicated teachers in Uzbekistan, who were being paid less than $200 to tutor her in poetry and history for an entire summer. There were times I disagreed and felt piqued, but these feelings did not draw me away from the collection of essays; rather, they made me wish that Batuman was an acquaintance and that I could argue with her in person. I think she is a critic and writer who may very well become a big star.