“Eventually I was admitted to the emergency rom, where doctors removed the gravel from my knees, x-rayed my arm, informed me that my elbow was broken, and outfitted me with a cast and sling. The bill came to $1,700. This experience caused me to take a cold, hard look at the direction my life was headed. What was I doing, running around this world—a place about which I clearly understood nothing—writing an endless novel about God knows what? A week later, the department head called and asked if I wanted to return to Stanford. I said yes.”
Okay, so it’s funnier in context (humor is the dominant trope in this book), but some of the flavor comes through (“a place about which I clearly understood nothing”), as does the author’s directness. I don’t remember where I read about Elif Batuman’s The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, but I’m glad I took that unknown person’s advice.