Loved it, loved it, loved it like an addiction. Last Sunday, I said I would only read it for 30 minutes. Several hours later. . .I found myself on pag...moreLoved it, loved it, loved it like an addiction. Last Sunday, I said I would only read it for 30 minutes. Several hours later. . .I found myself on page 600 of a 751 page book, wanting to know what would ultimately happen to Theo, but never wanting the book to end. I had to make those last pages last, (who knows if I'll be around in ten years to read Tartt's next book)?. I carried it around with me for a week, reading a paragraph at a time in stolen moments between class, at lunch, trying to inhabit the between space Tartt describes in her novel.. .
In The Goldfinch, Tartt returns to two of her most enticing themes, (ones initially examined in The Secret History: a)"life is catastrophe" but beauty, while it doesn't exactly make life worth living, does give it some kind of dignity and meaning and b) sometimes authenticity means you are drawn to the unhealthy, that's just who you are. These two themes are beautifully underscored near the end of the book, when our lovable Russky Boris shoots heroin while he and Theo are watching It's a Wonderful Life together around Christmastime.
One of the great aspects of Tartt's novels is that you can read them as straight-up, gothic-tinged mysteries, or you can focus on their philosophical underpinnings. With regards to the latter, at the end of The Goldfinch, Tartt leaves her readers with a few beauties, (presumably to tide us over for the next ten years):
"And as much as I'd like to believe there's a truth beyond illusion, I've come to believe that there's no truth beyond illusion. Because, between 'reality' on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there's a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic."
One more comment, speculative. As shrouded in mystery as she is, I can't help but wonder where Tartt's research about art theft actually took her. At the end of the book, not to give anything away, several famous missing paintings are discovered. That actually happened this past week, two and a half weeks after The Goldfinch was released. . . (less)
I admit that I was pretty riveted by Salinger and couldn't wait to find time to read it during the past two weeks. It's curious to me that many of my...moreI admit that I was pretty riveted by Salinger and couldn't wait to find time to read it during the past two weeks. It's curious to me that many of my current high school students disliked Catcher in the Rye. When I was in high school, I loved Salinger's fiction, including Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey-and Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on a book that outlined the reclusive life of the man who wrote these works.
The main thesis (communicated and supported in 600 plus pages of interviews with ex-lovers, children, war comrades, publishers and friends): J.D. Salinger was irreparably damaged by his service in World War II, which included, at the end, liberating a concentration camp. His lifelong penchant for girls in the 14-18 age range is symptomatic of Salinger's emotional development being arrested when he went to war. The Catcher in the Rye appears, on the surface, to be a book about an angsty adolescent, but in actuality contains the violent war-torn psyche of a veteran suffering from PTSD. This is why, in the hands of the mentally unstable such as Mark David Chapman or John Hinckley, it becomes a manual for killing. (Someone interviewed in Salinger points out how Holden calls his red hunting cap a people shooting hat.) I only recommend this book for Salinger fans who are not faint of heart when faced with the idea that he was a very flawed, albeit interesting, individual.(less)
This is on the summer reading list for my Pre AP sophomores (they had it as a choice to read last summer). I must confess, I was surprised to see it o...moreThis is on the summer reading list for my Pre AP sophomores (they had it as a choice to read last summer). I must confess, I was surprised to see it on a public school reading list as the book seems to have a very religious, specificaly Catholic, agenda. That being said, the story of Immaculee is terrifying and uplifting at the same time. To be a Tutsi and to have survived the Rwandan Holocaust is indeed, miraculous. I also found Immaculee's depiction of her slaughtered family one-dimensional, but then again, I have to consider the purpose of the memoir, which is to tell of the horror Immaculee experienced--and how she managed to survive physically and psychologically. I would also say, if the reader is to believe Immaculee, she has found a way to stop the vacillation between blaming self and others that seems to characterize what it means to be an individual at this time.(less)
My brother gave this to me a couple of years ago after he returned from vacation. He'd visited the Crazy Horse Monument and purchased this at a gift s...moreMy brother gave this to me a couple of years ago after he returned from vacation. He'd visited the Crazy Horse Monument and purchased this at a gift shop nearby. All in all, the book was pretty interesting. The first half of the book is an intriguing interview with Wihopa (aka Pretty Woman or Agnes Ross), an 88 year old member of the Spirit Water Dweller tribe, one of the seven tribes of the Sioux. Wihopa achieved many firsts as a Native American woman. She was one of the first American Indian women to graduate from college. She was the first Dakota woman to receive South Dakota teacher of the year. She was the first Educational Specialist to supervise the Kindergarten teachers reservation-wide on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The list goes on and is documented in the book. Now, the second part of the book? It delves into astrology and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. The book was written by Wihopa's son, who believes in Edgar Cayce and astrology. He has included her chart--accompanied by commentary from husband and sons as to whether the characteristics outlined ring true. Almost all of the comments are positive, which is a welcome change from all of the my-childhood-fucked-me-up memoirs currently on the shelves today. The last part of the book is about how the world is changing--how feminine energy is becoming stronger, helping to balance the world.(less)
Excellent. Funny and brutal. One of my favorite passages: Down the concourse they came unsteadily. Enid favoring her damaged hip, Alfred paddling at t...moreExcellent. Funny and brutal. One of my favorite passages: Down the concourse they came unsteadily. Enid favoring her damaged hip, Alfred paddling at the air with loose-hinged hands and slapping the airport carpeting with poorly controlled feet, both of them carrying Nordic Pleasurelines shoulder bags and concentrating on the floor in front of them, measuring out the hazardous distance three paces at a time. To anyone who saw them averting their eyes from the dark-haired New Yorkers careering past them, to anyone who who caught glimpse of Alfred's straw fedora looming at the height of Iowa corn on Labor Day, or the yellow wool of the slacks stretching over Enid's outslung hip, it was obvious that they were Midwestern and intimidated. But to Chip Lambert, who was waiting for them just beyond the security checkpoit they were killers.
I don't know how he does it, but Franzen comprehends and traces the causes and long lasting effects in family dynamics much more deeply than any other person, author, or psychiatric professional I've ever encountered.(less)
As usual, beautifully written--but Erdrich is getting darker and darker as time goes on. I read this novel in almost one sitting, one day. It reads qu...moreAs usual, beautifully written--but Erdrich is getting darker and darker as time goes on. I read this novel in almost one sitting, one day. It reads quickly and the prose is like butter-but it's truly disturbing and there are absolutely no comforting chuckles like you can find in The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse or Tales of Burning Love. I think the the two diary technique does work, however, unlike some of the earlier reviewers. It underscores how the two main characters cannot share the parts of themselves (their shadows?) that might actually truly unite them in love instead of damaging love/hate.
I also definitely think you can see the influence of Fitzgerald in this novel. Not only does Erdrich quote Fitzgerald outright, I believe the following passage is a direct reference to Gatsby, "Some call this denial. People joke about denial, or even look down on those who stubbornly clutch a hopeless idea, especially when it involves a relationship. However, denial can be seen as noble in some people. It can be seen as a form of sacred craziness. Are your fingertips sensitive enough to feel a hair through a piece of paper? How about a dozen pieces of paper? How about a dozen pieces of paper? Two dozen? There are people so sensitive that they can trace a hair beneath three dozen pieces of paper. Gil had that kind of sensitivity. The hair beneath the thicknesses of paper was something terrible he did not want to feel--shame, perhaps, shame, probably. No matter how much paper he piled up, he could still feel the hair. He had to work at his denial constantly, he had to keep the paper neatly piled." Remember Nick Carraway describing Gatsby as having "some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life"--so that he had to work very, very hard to maintain his state of denial. . ..(less)
Pretty well-written non-fiction. I enjoyed this book immensely. The author obviously cares about the missing art--"The paintings were still missing, h...morePretty well-written non-fiction. I enjoyed this book immensely. The author obviously cares about the missing art--"The paintings were still missing, hidden away in some dark corner, imprisoned without food and water, a set of dissidents in a cold, concrete cell." His search to solve the famous mystery of the Gardner Heist leads him to Ireland, where he looks for Whitey Bulger in the rain (before stopping in for brews at cozy pubs). He also introduces his readers to Harold Smith, the indefatigable art detective who was still following leads up until his death in 2005. I don't know if the Vermeer and Rembrandt will ever be found, but Boser makes an excellent case that "Golden Boy" gangster David Turner was definitely involved.(less)