A review in four parts.
9:15 A.M. Sitting in a taxi on the FDR Drive, I wonder how life has brought me to this point. I’m headed for a ferry to take me to a warehouse on Governor’s Island to watch a twelve-hour staging of Dostoevsky’s Demons, in Italian. How life brought me to this point is that I recently wrote a book called The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them ($10.20 on Amazon—I’m just saying), which includes a nonfictional retelling of Dostoevsky’s weirdest novel, The Demons (formerly translated as The Possessed), set in the Stanford comparative literature PhD program, where I was once a graduate student, and where we were all once possessed by a combination of dangerous literary-theoretical ideas and a demonic Nikolai Stavrogin-like classmate.
9:25 A.M. Disembarking at the Maritime Building, I look around for the Lincoln Center publicist, who told me she would be wearing a straw hat. Inconveniently, I forgot my ticket in San Francisco, which is where I live, and where it is currently 6:20 A.M. There are about five hundred women here wearing straw hats. I am both jet-lagged and hung over, having flown in thirty-six hours ago for my college roommate’s wedding. At 4:00 A.M. yesterday morning I was stuck with the bride’s little brother in a broken, vomit-filled elevator in Koreatown, trying to leave a karaoke bar which I believe shared its broken, vomit-filled elevator with a medium-end brothel.
9:27 A.M. Well, the ferry doesn’t actually leave until ten, so I decide I have time for a cigarette. A college-aged Lincoln Center employee in a yellow shirt is holding a yellow sign that says “DEMONS – SLIP 1.” An older man approaches this young person with a paternal chuckle. “That’s excellent, I have to say. Really very good,” he observes. “Thanks,” says the young man with the sign.
9:28 A.M. I have lit a cigarette and am staring at Staten Island, thinking about my problems, when I am approached by a tall, remarkably handsome young man wearing sunglasses, white pants, a polo shirt, trail-runners, and a safari hat. He is carrying a copy of the Times. He asks if I am Elif. I realize that this is my blind date. I had almost forgotten about my blind date! The thing is, a total stranger wrote to me in May, saying that he had bought two of the seven hundred tickets to this coveted performance on the morning they went on sale (“A 12-Hour Play, and Endless Bragging Rights,” read the Times headline), only to discover that none of his friends wanted to join him on Governors Island for a twelve-hour-long performance of The Demons scheduled to coincide with the World Cup finals. So, he thought of me! Needless to say I was enormously flattered, although at that point I already had a ticket from The Paris Review. “Maybe we can hang out on the ferry,” I suggested. After introducing himself (how did he recognize me?), my date announces that his pants have come unbuttoned. “This is not how I wanted to make a first impression,” he observed, buttoning his pants. Read More