Art and Design. Literature and Film. Travel and Culture. Indifference and Seduction.

In Which I Am Forgiven By Elif Batuman

Dear MS. Batuman,

I’m currently interning at the literary website “The Millions,” for which I occasionally post “Curiosities” – little links to articles on the web that our readers might enjoy – and I recently posted the following: “At the Paris Review Daily, Elif Batuman walks us through part one of HIS 12-hour blind date with Dostoevsky. (via Book Bench)” (emphasis added)

Shortly afterwards, “Alison” posted the following comment: “Elif Batuman is a woman.”

Doom, I thought, for several reasons. First and foremost, I myself do not possess an anglo-sounding name, so to me such mistakes are personal. Of course, my name ends with an “a,” which makes things a bit simpler for everyone, but my sister’s name ends with a consonant, and there is a good chance that the U.S. government is yet to realize that she is a she.

As waves of shame from cultural insensitivity washed over me, I comforted myself with the fact that I did not make the hetero-normative assumption that just because you were on a blind date with a male in your piece, you must obviously be female. So there! I will tell THAT to my detractors.

But doom I thought again, after I spent the better part of the morning trying to gauge the approximate level of your fame and influence online (and thus the approximate size of my gaffe).  My research reveals that your level of fame and influence is, in short, high.  And to make matters worse: you are funny and you smoke.  Doom indeed.

Please accept my apologies.  I will make amends by reading The Possessed, and by correcting all those who confuse your gender in my presence, forever.

With humility,
Ujala Sehgal

Dear Ujala,

Thanks for your kind and entertaining note, and for reposting on The Millions.  I do get the gender mistake a lot, and actually find it kind of flattering, since I interpret it to mean that I don’t have a girly style.  You must have mistaken me for one of these hard-hitting gay theater writers who are carrying on the tradition of Hemingway and Dos Passos. Re: your unawareness of my tremendous fame and influence, I will forgive you completely if you purchase The Possessed.

Best wishes,

Postscript: In Which Elif Batuman Continues To Acknowledge My Existence!

“[…] Naturally, I was delighted by this testament to the virility of my authorial voice, which is evidently such that young people would sooner believe me to be a gay man than entertain the possibility of my not having a penis at all.”


One response

  1. Pingback: Many happy returns | My Life and Thoughts

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