Review: The Goldfinch | How to review a quasi Proustian novel

Title: The Goldfinch

Author: Donna Tartt

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Publication Date: September 23, 2013

Rating: 5 Stars

Dear fellow Babblers,

If you were able to sit through till the end of my last post recounting my breakdown and solution to my meaningless life as an upcoming literature graduate you would have discerned my promise to provide a review for one of Donna Tartt’s works. At the time I was confident in such an aspiration. Like most, I started my Tartt fever with The Secret History. Ok, so when I read an exceptionally like seriously GENIUS novel, I set up this sort of expectations and that leads into a disturbed territory of snobbish reluctance to read anything else from the same author out of fear that their other works will not compare. Yet, here I am precisely 771 pages from the beginning of The Goldfinch… Come on, we all know that sense of achievement and deceitful pleasure attached to completing a HUGE like seriously HUGE book… And there I was promising you guys a review of the work a few days ago…

How do you review a story about a 13 year New Yorker named Tho Decker who loses his mom, a beautiful woman in white trench coat who detests heals and made extra money as a part-time model in a museum explosion during an unplanned trip to admire some ancient Dutch masterpieces? How do you make sense of this boy’s infatuation with a small, yet intricately designed painting by a painter comparable to the beloved Rembrandt dating all the way back to 1654? How do you recreate Tartt’s long, Proustian discourses on the eighteenth century classical art world? How can you, in a few sentences (well, doesn’t a « review » imply the notion of the ability to retell a story briefly?), master the same claustrophobic, stuffy and foreign air of Theo’s stay with his corrupt father and drugged out girlfriend Xandra? How to characterize Theo’s friendship with Boris in a way as not to give away the virtue and intelligence masked behind the drugs, alcohol, and lawbreaking habits Boris imposes into Theo’s life? How can a review of The Goldfinch bring Theo to the home of the kindhearted friend of Welty, Hobie? How to give commentary of a novel which spans more or less 10 years of a young boy’s life and the infatuation of a young boy which exposes him to a world of drugs, theft and even murder (even if it was self-defense, it was STILL murder guys. For those of you who haven’t yet read The Goldfinch and have no idea what I’m talking about…Sorry but the murderer and the « murderee » remains a mystery until you reach page 678) ?

Before typing up this post I clicked through multiple reviews for Donna Tartt’s masterpiece and found close to nothing hopeful. Sure, there are you reviews and « who else has read The Goldfinch »-type of posts (REVIEW: The Goldfinch, The Goldfinch), the usual « best quotes » posts (3 Quotes: Donna Tartt). But I seriously like SERIOUSLY could not find any real perceptive or critical reviews that added a new dimension to the 800 pages I just read. I don’t mean to ask for a high school analysis of themes and motifs here guys so please don’t refer me to The Goldfinch: By Donna Tartt — Review. I call for you, you AND even YOU summer readers to pick up from you growing pile of library books “To go return” and rethink how the story made you feel. A review is supposed to tell how we feel when reading a particular work. Books weren’t meant to be read, finished, and left behind for the next…. I mean, isn’t that why we love reading book reviews so much? To hear a new voice and reinterpret stories from another’s imagination? Aren’t reviews like supposed to offer something new not just « OMG I love this book », « Why couldn’t Theo marry Pippa in the end > », « What’s up with Lucius Reeve anyway? ». Lets just go ahead and skip to the last few pages of the book which, in my opinion can be pulled from the story altogether and exist all on its own as a metaphysical commentary on beauty (something we already catch a glimpse of during the narrator, Richard’s heart-pounding lecture during Greek class in The Secret History).

If Tartt can stir our perceptions about this catastrophic life we are leading, which ultimately amounts to nothing, why cannot the book reviewer do the same to his or her readers? I don’t see authors writing books just to say I like this and that, I think so and so is the best out there. If that were the case, why read? We mind as well just tune into CNN and listen to the politicians battling over right and wrong in social welfare. What I’m trying to get at guys is the notion that as book reviewers we review books because we love books… thats a given… but how about for once we add something new… how did The Goldfinch affect you (if you are one of my fellow readers) as a reader/reviewer/whoever you may be?

Donna Tartt has told us « […] life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence – of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do- is catastrophe » (767). Apart from the long nights, early and dark mornings I spent lost in this underground universe Tartt creates, this passage at the very end is what really sent my mind twirling and sent shivers up my spine. These words that are so nihilistic, yet so utterly true. If we are readers. If we are writers. If we are book reviewers… Should we not all be engaged in perceptive imaginative discourse on what we read, perceive, observe? Tartt shows us the tangled nature involved in the art of writing, reading and perception. I think this idea works also for us who review books. Rather than stating that we love/hate/wish this character died/wish he fell in love with her types of reviews lets express what we feel, why we feel, what we take away from what we read. Maybe, just maybe the uncertainty, questions, feelings that we extract from Tartt’s work have a greater meaning and fulfill some greater purpose in our lives, as does the infatuation of the Goldfinch for Theo…

Yours Truly,

Delphine-2

Questions? Comments? Recommendations? Lets get in touch! Comment below!

(Photo credits go to Google).

The Fear of the Literature Graduate

Throughout my university career I have begun multiple blog accounts – all with some sort of exciting intention or goal. Long story short, all have fallen through. Let’s not get into logistics and the technicalities of what sort of thematics I adopted. It was plainly a lack of inspiration and a laziness on my part. Ever since I was a young gal lost somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles, I have been a BIG reader. I could lose myself for long hours after school and into the weekend with a crisp new novel just delivered by my Scholastic book subscription.Lets fast forward a decade – not much has changed – perhaps a couple inches taller (I remain the same height as my middle school days, a feeble 5 feet) and a few hair shades lighter, but all in all, my love for books has not changed.  Continue reading “The Fear of the Literature Graduate”