Sunday, August 14, 2005


I've just finished reading Namesake. Gogol is named for the Russian writer to whom his father believes he owes his life. Throughout Gogol's youth he's embarrassed by the name. Before starting college he changes his name to Nikhil, which would have been his "good name" according to Bengali custom, had not American bureaucracy made it difficult for his parents. Nikhil later advocates that people choose their own names when they're eighteen.

I'm reminded of the effort some of us put into choosing screen names or user ids.

My daughter grew up as Margaret - a name she says everyone responds to with "My grandmother's name is..." After a summer of deliberation she chose to start college as Maggy. For some reason she registered as Margarette - a choice she backed away from two years later. But Maggy, though not as drastic a change as Gogol's, has worked for her despite the nearly universal tendency to spell it Maggie.

Many other wonderful thought in Namesake... The description of grace surrounding the family of the woman he dates "From the very beginning he feels effortlessly incorporated into their lives. It is a different brand of hospitality from what he is used to; for though the Ratliffs are generous, they are people who do not go out of their way to accommodate others, assured, in his case correctly, that their life will appeal to him."

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