Welcome back to a post form you all know and love…. Chatz! And though it appears to be Monday, let me assure you that this Chatz occured on Sat(urday). Veronica is a person who is both very eloquent and very generous with her time and she agreed to join me online to defend Donna Tartt. And boy did she need some defending from Judge Gay. I am actually very pleased to see The People in the Trees survive another round and I’ve left off talking about it again because I think my love for it requires a full post. So for now, let’s talk The Goldfinch. (NB: This gets a bit spoilery. Although when we talk about the end we’re actually referring to a general summing up chapter that doesn’t involve the final stages of the plot.)
Fay: Hello Veronica and welcome to Chatz on…. Well actually on Sat(urday) would you believe
Fay: But more specifically on ToBX and even more specifically on The Goldfinch
Veronica: Thank you kindly Fay, it is a pleasure to be here.
Fay: Today Judge Gay slammed the crap out of our pal Donna Tartt
Fay: As a Goldfinch lover, what say ye?
Fay: Alrighty so let’s talk writing
Fay: Judge Gay really hates Donna Tartt’s prose
Fay: (she says the word prose a lot)
Veronica: Ach, the prose is divine. This is a bit of a taste thing, really – it comes down to personal preference somewhat.
Veronica: It is overwritten, but I think Tartt is in control of the bigness of it throughout. It’s an immersive, epic bildungsroman, and it needs to be as detailed as it is in order to convey the sense of Theo’s life.
Fay: I kind of know what she means
Fay: I have to say I found myself skimming parts of it
Fay: I mean sometimes I was all, ‘Donna, I love you, but I GET IT’
Veronica: I agree re: arrogance. That’s part of Tartt’s mystique. She’s so confident in her ambition that I trust her storytelling as a reader, both in Goldfinch and Secret History, even when I couldn’t see where she was going. Judge Gay totally contradicts herself in saying that she acknowledges ‘Donna Tartt is, undoubtedly, a brilliant writer. She is coolly in command of her craft’, then going on to pick apart and criticise sentences that I thought were incredibly well-written.
Veronica: I’m very biased just because I loved the book so much, but I can definitely acknowledge that it has huge flaws and I don’t think the writing is one of them.
Fay: I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on the writing style thing
Fay: Not you and me, I mean
Fay: You and Judge Gay
Fay: Judge Gay just didn’t dig Donna Tartt
Fay: With a badass haircut
Veronica: I’m sure Donna doesn’t care. She has her sharp suits.
Veronica: But to say that reading it felt like a criminal sentence is crazy talk!
Fay: Let’s talk plot points
Fay: I tend to agree with pretty much most of Judge Gay’s comments
Fay: EXCEPT (and I quote): It’s as if she knows that Theo’s worry over the painting he took, as a mere boy, from the museum when it was bombed is sort of strange, given the context in which it happened, so she tries to make us forget that strangeness by relentlessly amplifying Theo’s anxiety until we forget what originally caused it.
Fay: How is it strange that a twelve year old would be worried about having stolen a priceless artefact from a museum?
Fay: How is it strange that he couldn’t think of a way to get it back without implicating himself further?
Veronica: Yes, that’s not strange at all. The painting is intrinsically linked with the death of his mother, which is THE formative experience of Theo’s life. Of course he’s going to obsess over it and covet it, the same way he obsesses over Pippa. Their proximity to the bombing makes them his preciouses.
Veronica: But anyway, Boris! Mi corazon
Fay: Oh Boris.
Fay: Never change
Fay: (SPOILER: HE NEVER DOES)
Fay: I loved the whole Vegas sequence
Fay: The weird desolation and semi-squalor
Fay: The kids wandering around like underfed, over-drugged tumbleweeds
Fay: That section more than anything else felt true to me
Veronica: Oh it was just magical. Even though the pacing of it is weird and it doesn’t necessarily make narrative sense for his Vegas time to take up so much of the book, it’s such a rich setting.
Fay: Of all the weird plot twists and Theo’s annoying behaviours that he over-explained
Fay: That was the only part where I was like
Fay: Yeah, Donna.
Fay: That seems like something a really messed up 13 year old art thief would do
Veronica: Agree. This is one of the most impressive displays of Tartt’s writing. How can she evoke the experience of latchkey suburban Vegas kids so brilliantly.
Fay: I love that you just said latchkey
Veronica: It’s so extreme. The whole thing is hyperreal, but I think she does a really great job with the delicate balance between Theo’s experience and the reality.
Fay: And I mean everything is so hyperreal at that time anyway
Fay: Everything is new and everything is SUCH A BIG DEAL
Veronica: Absolutely. They’re in such an extreme environment but they’re also just trying to get through the universal weirdness of adolescence.
Veronica: It’s kind of ironic that the stuff they’re dealing with actually is a HUGE DEAL
Fay: But then once Theo’s back in NY…..
Fay: I mean it all does start to become a bit ridiculous doesn’t it?
Fay: Everything starts moving faster and getting more convenient (plotwise, not so much for Theo)
Veronica: NYC is a different world. And it’s hard to say whether the huge shift in tone is internal to Theo or accurate
Veronica: Yes, there are a lot of plot points that are completely ridiculous
Fay: I just remember being all like, I am caring less and less
Veronica: It’s almost Dickensian (Hobie’s antiques shop, Pippa – who is a much nicer version of Estelle from Great Expectations)
Fay: Wow nicely put
Veronica: That stage is a bit of a blur, things feel out of whack chronologically, but I think that’s partly because Theo is in a prescription drug haze for so many years. The more I think about it the more impressed I am with the way the narrative and the style adheres to the structure of Theo’s lived experience.
Fay: Nyeh I didn’t care for Theo’s lived experience then
Fay: And I never liked the whole Pippa thing
Fay: Sure, Donna TOLD me Theo was in love with her but I never felt it
Veronica: Agree. It’s more obsession
Veronica: And he admits as much at the end, that his ideal of Pippa sits far from who she actually is
Fay: Sure, she’s linked to the death of his mother and a more innocent time
Fay: But to what end?
Veronica: Two perfect objects for Theo to obsess over.
Fay: To the ‘women are another type of possession’ end?
Fay: To the ‘how can anyone but me love you because you’re so unlovable and weird’ end?
Fay: I hated that btw
Veronica: Yes. Theo’s pathetic.
Veronica: That was in the judges’ notes somewhere. That one of them hated him but still was fascinated by his story.
Fay: you know the more I talk about this book the more I dislike it
Fay: I actually really enjoyed it while I was reading it though
Fay: Maybe I’m blowing it out of proportion
Veronica: I feel like I’d rather read Boris’s memoirs but maybe that would be too much of a good thing.
Fay: I mean yeah, I’d just rather read a Theo/Boris extended coming of age novel set in Vegas
Veronica: Omg I hope there’s Boris/Theo slashie fan fic somewhere on the internet.
Fay: But let’s skip straight to the ending
Fay: the terrible, preachy, disappointing ending
Veronica: FUCK THE ENDING
Veronica: I prefer to pretend the last chapter doesn’t exist.
Fay: ‘Whatever brilliance Tartt created, she very nearly destroys it with her unwillingness to simply end the novel.’
Fay: Totes agree, Judge Gay
Veronica: Like, okay, maybe I don’t know much about art but I just read your 800 page book and I think I gathered all the ideas about metaphors from that
Fay: NOPE YOU DID NOT YOU NEED THEM SPELLED OUT
Fay: LOVE DONNA TARTT
Veronica: It’s like a Cliff Notes summary of all the themes she’s just spent so long carefully and gracefully constructing
Veronica: That was really not cool. She didn’t need to tie it all up with a bow. The ending might have slightly abrupt if she hadn’t included the final chapter, but she needs to trust her readers’ intelligence more than that.
Veronica: Obviously we are very smart.
Fay: We are very smart indeed.
Fay: Is there anything else you wanted to add?
Vreonica: No I think that covers it.
Veronica: Shout out to Popchik for being adorable.
Veronica: The reunion between Boris and Popchik was the most moving and emotionally true section of the entire book.
Veronica: I would also like to extend an open invitation for Donna Tartt to be my friend.
Fay: Duly noted
Fay: And on that note
Fay: We’re out