Saturday, January 11, 2014

A review of Francine Prose's review of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch - "Doesn’t anyone care how something is written anymore?"

Today I review a review of a book I have not read.  So many good ideas in one place.

The book is current sensation The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, an author I have never read; the review is by novelist Francine Prose in the New York Review of Books, January 9, 2014, pp. 10-12 (unfortunately subscriber-only).  The review is entirely negative.  Prose is dismayed by Tartt’s novel.

Because I have an ideally equable critical temperament, if I were to read The Goldfinch, which given its 2013 publication date and 771 pages is unlikely, I would surely enjoy its pleasures and wince at its faults.  Prose’s review is 100% wincing.

Come to think of it, I have never read any of Prose’s books either.  I would probably like them, too.  What is easier than liking a book?  All sorts of people do it every day.

Prose’s review is useful for the way it pins down an approach to literature.  I share a lot of her assumptions.  Prose begins her piece with an overview of the word “Dickensian,” misapplied to this novel she thinks (this part is available at the link).  Does the word mean “long” or “lots of characters” or “orphans” – and Tartt is Dickensian in this sense – or does it mean “the depth and breadth of his powers of observation, his cadenced, graceful language”  and a long list of other attributes which can be packed into one word, “style.”  All of us, Prose and I who are thinking of style, and others who are referring to content, mean “in the manner of Dickens.”

The Goldfinch is about an orphan who falls in with a bad crowd, a bit like Oliver Twist, including a version of the Artful Dodger.  He is not actually an orphan, but has a father who is utterly useless – if this is not in the manner of Dickens, nothing is.  Unlike Oliver Twist, the entire big book is in the first person, so a grown-up Oliver is telling his own story, making the book a lot more like Great Expectations.  A painting and a lot of stuff about fine art is in the novel, too, about as un-Dickensian a subject as there is.

I am picking this up from reviews, that of Prose and others.  But as I paw through the book (a library copy), I come across bits like “The night was a dreamlike mangle of past and present: a childhood world miraculously intact in some respects, grievously altered in others, as if the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had joined to host the evening” (468) and

The other section of Honors English was reading Great Expectations.  Mine was reading Walden; and I hid myself in the coolness and silence of the book, a refuge from the sheet-metal glare of the desert.  (234)

Cute, right, the presence of the absence of Dickens.  But I have not read the novel, so perhaps there are as many parallels with and references to Henry David Thoreau.

Neither of those fragments sounds the least bit like Dickens.  Prose goes after Tartt for “sections that seem like the sort of passages a novelist employs as placeholders, hastily sketched-in paragraphs to which the writer intends to go back,” generic descriptive lists, and the frequency of clichés, although Prose is wrong about this point, since the character should actually be using far more clichés.  This is, after all, his first book, and he is writing a memoir, not a novel.  I assume this problem is explained away early in the novel.  Perhaps Theo Decker murdered someone.  “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.”  The narrator’s name is, yes, Theodicy.

Near the end of the review Prose invokes Great Expectations herself, the paragraph describing Mrs. Havisham’s bridal banquet, which is cheating – of course The Goldfinch has no sentences that good – and a bit of Edward St. Aubyn’s druggy Bad News in order to highlight Tartt’s “careless and pedestrian language” and demonstrate “why I found it difficult to respond when strangers assumed I was ‘loving’ Tartt’s novel as much as they were…  Reading The Goldfinch, I found myself wondering, ‘Doesn’t anyone care how something is written anymore?’”

A cry from the heart after my own heart, since I care about little else, but why should everyone else care about what Francine Prose and I care about?  I hope a book blogger who loves The Goldfinch is working on a five-part rebuttal to Prose right now – The Goldfinch in fact is well-written and ingeniously constructed, full of traps for unsuspectingly narrow readers like Francine Prose, and here is how Tartt did it.  I would love to read that.


  1. this is just . . . one of the best things i've read in ages.

  2. indeed, it is reviews like these that prevent me from reading books like those. you are performing a public service.

  3. I have read her Secret History and liked it but I'm not tempted by this one.
    I'm not going to debate what you wrote with you, I'm not equipped to enter such a conversation. I would give my opinion while you'd prove your point.
    However, I have a question for you: what do you think of the Oulipo movement?

  4. I concur with Prose:

  5. I have not read The Goldfinch either. I suppose that an author is in trouble right out of the gate if he or she is compared to Dickens. What if Tart is half as good as Dickens? I think that would be really, really good.

  6. But what are those godawful sentences anyway?

  7. Okay, I've read one of Prose's novels and I thought it was one of the worst pieces of [redacted] I've ever read in my life. Comparative reviewing is never good, but it's definitely not Tartt's fault if other reviewers are foolishly opting for bad comparisons. And given what I know about Prose's terrible writing, I take her words with many grains of salt...

  8. Bias! However valid (or invalid) the critic's complaints, shouldn't anyone named Prose have to recuse herself from assessing anybody else's prose? That just doesn't seem fair/right/etc.--not to mention "Dickensian."

    1. Indeed, when Amateur Reader wrote "Prose is dismayed by Tartt’s novel," I at first assumed he was personifying the concept of prose.

  9. I read The Secret History and thought it was terrible. For years I took comfort in the belief that Tartt was a one hit wonder who didn't write anything else, then she did. That people are hailing her as a great writer is beyond me. I was very happy to see Prose's review, finally.

    While I would love to hear what you have to say about Tartt's book, I would never suggest you actually read one.

  10. AR(T), good point about how it's unfair to find fault with the writing style of Tartt's rookie narrator. Kipling and Dickens (to name just two) also adapted the level of their writing to match the consciousness of their narrators, and yet somehow they still managed to be impressive. For example, from the tamer Esther sections of Bleak House:

    She partly drew aside the curtain of the long, low garret window and
    called our attention to a number of bird-cages hanging there, some
    containing several birds. There were larks, linnets, and
    goldfinches--I should think at least twenty.

    "I began to keep the little creatures," she said, "with the intention of
    restoring them to liberty. When my judgment should be given. Ye-es!
    They die in prison, though. Their lives, poor silly things, are so
    short in comparison with Chancery proceedings that, one by one, the
    whole collection has died over and over again. I doubt, do you know,
    whether one of these, though they are all young, will live to be
    free! Ve-ry mortifying, is it not?"

    Although she sometimes asked a question, she never seemed to expect a
    reply, but rambled on as if she were in the habit of doing so when no
    one but herself was present.

  11. You have hit upon an important issue: Which reviewer(s) will we turn to for advice about books? After all, isn't that a problem? We cannot read everything, so we must make our choices based upon whatever friends, pundits, bloggers, reviewers, and critics say. How, though, can we trust those friends, pundits, bloggers, reviewers, and critics? You answer that question, and you will win the profuse gratitude of everyone.

    And here is another significant issue: Isn't it odd the ways in which publishers and marketing drive book sales -- even of books that might otherwise not ever be noticed? At the same time, wonderful books -- like trees falling the forest without anyone around to witness the event -- simply do not really exist for too many people.

    This leads to one of my opinions about making reading choices: I tend to read nothing that has been published recently, but I wait instead for a book to be at least a generation old before making the move to read it. By then, if the book is worthwhile, it might still be around.

    Finally, consider these as examples: Will anyone be reading Dan Brown's books in the years 2030? What about Tartt'sThe Goldfinch? What about Prose's books?

  12. I had never heard about Donna Tartt until last week when I read a review of the French traduction of The Goldfinch in some newspaper.
    In fact, it was so far from a literary critic as to mainly describe the author's look, haircut and dress. There was the Dickensian reference too but nothing about style, except that she writes on notebooks (no computer until the last corrections, so original) with a ballpen, and also that, in 21th century, with internet and so on, she took 11 years to write her novel.

    Here in France, books reviews are slightly more interesting in general, and cope with style and writing process — even if most of the time they only give you an idea of the contents — and it's difficult to find reviewers you can trust. I rather follow some booksellers' advices, some friends' too and I trust some editors because of their catalogue. But too often, you are misled by people who have no idea about style, or who take originality for style (the narrative intermingled with inner voice, the deconstruction of the narration, etc.). Maybe it's just that it's very difficult to talk about style after all.
    I don't really follow the recent publications here, being more interested in old books from all parts of the world, but I wonder if it isn't an effect of creative writing programs (something we find very strange in this side of the Atlantic) that many books are written in such similar ways that it's no more interesting to discuss about their style.

  13. If I were wise, I would let these comments stand as they are, but if I were wise I would not have written this piece in the first place. Regardless, thanks for the useful and varied views.

    So just a few points.

    Francine Prose stakes out a position in which the highest achievement in fiction is something that is deeply worked at a sentence level. Every word is the right word. Flaubert-like. And she is usually placed in that kind of tradition. Biblibio stands out as an exception – what did you read? I let Amazon pick a random page of Goldengrove for me and got p. 116, which, skipping past the useless dialogue, goes:

    “Margaret would have seen something even odder and cooler than Lincoln. Or maybe she would have heard the cloud singing Otis Redding. And now she was gone, and here was Aaron with the dull little sister, and all she could see was a sheep. His ice cream hand clutched the steering wheel. Butter pecan trickled between his fingers.”

    I do not see how this is anywhere near terrible; nor do I see how it is any better than Donna Tartt or any number of other fiction writers.

    The Goldfinch, p. 116, first paragraph without dialogue:

    “It seemed a hopeful sign that the telephone number was still in service. My own home phone had been disconnected. As soon as I could decently slip away from breakfast and my untouched plate, I went back to the telephone in the family room, with Irenka flustering around and running the vacuum and dusting the bric-a-brac all around me, and Kitsey across the room on the computer, determined not to even look at me.”

    Prose in not arguing that Tartt’s writing is “godawful,” but rather slack. It does seem that way: “bananas, cupcakes, club sandwiches, ice cream” (81).

    But first there is the issue of how the kid narrator should sound, presumably not like the narrator of Pale Fire or Swann’s Way or Esther in Bleak House, and second maybe the book really is written like Flaubert in that it is elaborately patterned. Maybe that banana, plain and meaningless by itself, is used to create signal a web of links between subtly related scenes.

    Prose is baffled by the status people have given Tartt’s book. She cannot see what those who love The Goldfinch are seeing. My basic assumption is that whatever they are seeing is there

    By the way, to anyone who has read The Goldfinch: how this kid write 771 pages that sound so much like a novel? Does he enroll in a Creative Non-fiction program at UNLV or something?

    Brian – half as good as Dickens, very funny. The word “Dickensian” used either way I describe says nothing at all about quality.

    R.T. – I don’t think I hit on those issue at all! Who will we turn to for advice? Everyone! And you do not really find it odd that publishers use marketing to sell the books they publish, do you? What could be less odd.

    2030 is 16 years away. Tartt’s The Secret History is 22 years old, and still widely read. You’ll have to ask champion and expert D. G. Myers about Francine Prose. But yeah, sure 2030, why not? So you might as well get ahead and read ‘em now.

    I completely reject the idea that the sameness of much fiction in the U.S. is caused by creative writing programs. In any given place and times most novels (stories, poems, plays) are written in similar ways. Sameness is the ordinary and unceasing condition of literature. All of those similar books are eventually filtered away and replaced by new books that are all in the same in a different way.

    Emma - I barely know anything about Oulipo. I read almost all of Italo Calvino's books without knowing there was such a thing. I have also read Zazie on the Metro. What is the relevance of this question, I wonder?

  14. "The narrator’s name is, yes, Theodicy."

    Surely not! Who would call their kid Theodicy? Years ago, I used to help run a quiz league, and set questions, and one of my questions was "What is 'Theodicy'?" To which the facetious answer came: "It's a book written by Homer". But I digress.

    From the excerpt you give from Tartt's novel, I see nothing at all to object to. But it's admittedly only a brief excerpt. I'll have a longer browse. I generally find that a broewse for about ten or so minutes gives you a fair idea of the quality of the prose. If the writing isspecially bad, a few seconds is generally enough.

    I take it that Tartt herself has not compared her writing to Dickens'. If that is the case, it's a tad unfair to criticise her writing for not being Dickensian. However, it's fair enough having a go at those who have described her writing as "Dickensian" without telling us just what it is they mean by the term.

  15. Well, in the world of the novel the kid's name is merely Theo Decker. In our world, though, that name is a little bit suspicious. The novel ends with a thirteen page "sermon," as Prose calls it, on the problem of evil. This is an ancient literary technique called "rubbing it in."

    You are right that Prose is going after reviewers describing the novel as Dickensian, not Tartt. But this is part of her question to the people who "love" the novel - what exactly are you seeing in this book?

    Tartt's prose seems okay in fragments. Nothing too special, though. I was tempted to put up a passage from p. 116 of Lolita, but the paragraph is too long and the exercise is too cruel. Too cruel to Prose, really.

  16. There's a strong current in American writing nowadays to focus on the sentence, to write one beautiful sentence after another, day by day, until you have enough sentences to fill the pages of something book length. Which is fine and all of that, but a novel is more than beautiful prose. A novel is little (or maybe nothing) without ideas to be expressed. Better novels also include things like metaphor, symbolism, themes and counterthemes, formal patterning, etc. I just don't get the modern American obsession with the sentence, unless (I cautiously--or maybe incautiously--advance) it's to hide a lack of real ideas, a something to be written about. I donno.

    I like Prose, I like her writing about writing, and I like a lot of her writing. Her short story collection (The Peaceable Kingdom, I think it's called) is really fine, and I am greatly in Prose's debt because her enthusiasm for Chekhov is what pushed me into reading his stories as an adult, and Chekhov is one of my three favorite writers. None of which is to the point, I see.

    Without bothering to read Prose's review of Tartt (or her review of reviews of Tartt, I guess), it seems that Prose is mostly trying to defend her idea of Dickens, more than she's interested in Tartt's novel. As if Dickens needs her help. As if her review will harm Tartt's sales. And, of course, Prose is obsessed with the sentence, and she's getting a chance to trot out her views on that subject.

    Funny you should mention VN. I was reading a section of Bleak House last night where Dickens plays at length with shadows and bands of light, casting a bar sinister of shadow across the portrait of a lady who has borne a bastard child. This hint was buried in a great deal of other playful and biting stuff concerning shadows and light, and I thought immediately of Nabokov. Good stuff. I trust I've added nothing to the discussion.

  17. Let's be cruel: "I think it was exactly a week after our last swim that the noon mail brought a reply from the second Miss Phalen. The lady wrote she had just returned to St. Algebra from her sister's funeral. 'Euphemia had never been the same after breaking that hip.' As to the matter of Mrs. Humbert's daughter, she wished to report that it was too late to enroll her this year; but that she, the surviving Phalen, was practically certain that if Mr. and Mrs. Humbert brought Dolores over in January, her admittance might be arranged."

    Novels, for the most part, needing at least some occasional narration of events to move the plot forward, cannot consist solely of displays of dazzling sentences and stylish exercises of style. That's why Dickens had to alternate the more mundane and humbler Esther sections with his godly (for lack of a better term) sections on Bleak House: to drive the plot forward. If not for Esther, Bleak House would have ended up being a two or three thousand long baggy monster a la Proust's Recherche. Heck, even Nabokov had to give up after about 500 pages into Ada and do some sleight of hand and throw in a magic Morges (shades of Borges, morses, walruses and mermaids combined) to finish that masterpiece, because he seemingly ran out of steam.

  18. Yeah, Esther carries the through-action, and the omniscient narrator carries everything else. The everything else is amazing.

  19. Mr. bailey, absolute agreement here, that's why I called those sections godly.
    Now, inspired by the anachronistic allusion to Bend Sinister found on Bleak House, let me indulge on some literary game of delusion, by reading into Ada things that are not there (or in Nabokovian, to bring my little transistor radio into Nabokov's ballroom). On the Ada page where Morges and the mermaid's morse message are mentioned we read: "in the middle of the night she [Ada] had taken to her room from the hotel bookcase the British Encyclopedia volume, here it was, with this article on Space-time".
    Now the starting point of Borges Tlon, Ukbar, Orbis Tertium is a similar encyclopedia article about an alternate space-time: Tlon.
    From the urbandictionary:
    Talon, pron.
    1. Master of time and space.
    2. An expert at insanity.
    3. Bringer of doom.
    To 'pull a Talon' means to send a message to someone that was meant for someone else.

  20. If you look hard enough, you see that the entire world of literature is just one big interpenetrating book, written by everyone, all at once. Sort of like in Foucault's Pendulum, but maybe less sinister.

  21. That is not p. 116 of Lolita. There is some sneaky stuff in that passage. Perhaps Tartt is similarly sneaky. Her readers should get to work.

    The current you describe, Scott, is in no way particularly American. The world champion at this time, or worst offender, must be John Banville. Banville does what humblehappiness says "cannot" be done. Every dang sentence. The content of ideas in most of his novels is minimal, although the books certainly have themes, patterning, etc. What ideas are expressed by a Fabergé egg?

    Prose does not want to harm Tartt's sales. She wants to reduce Tartt's status. She is right to defend her aesthetic position with as much force as she can bring to it. As for the specific case, though, eh.

    I believe anything about Ada belongs at St. Orberose. Those here for Bleak House, this way, please.

  22. Which particular egg do you mean? I don't think they all express the same thing, for they do not all have the same design, yes? Is a word merely an ornament, a bauble to be placed in a pretty setting made of more words? I don't know. I've never read any Banville. Your description makes them sound like Faberge eggs, though, by which I mean unkindly to say they sound like they are all surface and wearying in advance. But now I'll have to have a look at something of his. Recommend a title, if you would!

    I think Prose wants other reviewers to stop trying to raise the status of Tartt's novel; I get the feeling that she thinks their enthusiasm for the book is spurring them into making claims beyond the book's merit. Tartt isn't the real target, then. Maybe I should just go read Prose's review, eh?

  23. Not just reviewers, but also ordinary readers. See the quote in the post with the word "strangers." Prose and I share some skepticism about the usefulness of the word "love" in literary criticism.

    I would say The Book of Evidence is Banville at his best (which includes some ideas). You might enjoy his science novels, fictional bios, Doctor Copernicus and Kepler, but they are not so baroquely ornamented, not at all, so they will not demonstrate my point. For a pure example, try the empty, ridiculous, Booker-winning The Sea. Or try part of it, although knowing how he wraps it up is part of my argument. How can you be sure the house is empty if you do not look in all the rooms?

  24. The Sea, yes, I think we have that one. I would of course read the whole thing; we all know by now that some great books only pull together at the finish, right?

    I ain't reading anything about the Renaissance ever again. I'm done with it, by gum.

  25. From page 116: "We went outside into the copper-coloured light of the late-autumn evening. Strong gusts of wind were sweeping up Station Road, making the tops of the trees thrash and flinging dead leaves about the sky. Rooks cawed rawly. The year, it is almost done. Why do I think something new will come to replace it, other than a number on a calendar? Bun's car, a nippy little red model, bright as a ladybird, was parked on the gravel inside the gate. It gasped on its springs as Bun inserted herself rearways into the driving seat, first pushing in her momentous behind then heaving up her legs and falling back heavily with a grunt against the fake tiger-skin upholstery... Smells of exhaust, smoke, the sea, the garden's autumn rot, old ape that I am." Indeed...

  26. I want to abandon whatever I may have said previously in this threaded conversation, and I would say this instead:

    Can we ever accurately assess a review without also reading the book being reviewed? We can talk about the reviewer's style, tone, and perhaps a few other matters, but -- unless we have read the reviewer's subject -- how can we talk effectively about the reviewer's fairness, accuracy, objectivity (or lack of it) and other matters?

  27. Prose kindly wrote her review in order to afford us all the chance to talk about reviews and Dickens and reader reception, etc. None of us wants to talk about Tartt's book, not even Prose. The Goldfinch is just Francine's opening conversational gambit, to pave the way for Nabokov excerpts, for example. You will be happy to learn that I'm going to lunch now, and won't have the internet handy.

  28. "Rooks cawed rawly" - yes, perfect, exactly. Banville in three words.

    R.T. - yes, we can. The good reviewer (Prose is very good) provides an argument and evidence. I know what to do with arguments and evidence.

    Some reviews lack either an argument, or evidence, or both. Now those, you are right, are impossible to assess. Inarguable in their own way.

  29. About actually reading The Goldfinch, in the immortal words of Borges: "Quien se le atreve a ese ladrillo?" Who's daring enough to hit that brick?

  30. I bought the Goldfinch as a cheapie for the kindle. Sometimes you just can't pass these things up.

    I've read Francine Prose's Blue Angel (a referential title) and loved it. I tried another of her novels (can't remember the name) and didn't care for it. She has another coming out in a few months.

  31. Blue Angel has tempted me, too. D. G. Myers has written enthusiastically and convincingly about Prose.

    If The Goldfinch were not so huge, I might have read it just for this post, in the name of what passes for intellectual honesty. I am sure I would enjoy all of the stuff about art, at least.

    1. re: Blue Angel.

      I've given that book as a gift about half a dozen times at least thinking it was a 'sure thing.' Half the people I gave it to hated it, and that was, of course, an unexpected response.

  32. Prose tart about Tartt's prose.
    (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

  33. Hmmm....I've read Donna Tartt. I've read Francine Prose. I've read Charles Dickens. I'm not quite sure what Prose has in objection to The Goldfinch. Who said it was like Dickens? Certainly not Donna, just some reviewers who claim to have made that connection. And, I think the connection lies more in theme than in style, but even that is a stretch. I find Dickens to be an author of hope, ultimately, even after all the darkness he takes us through. Tartt is anything but an author of hope; rather, my objection to The Goldfinch is that it is a novel of despair. I could handle that in The Secret History. In The Goldfinch, she hits us over the head with it as if she's spent the twenty years between the two books reminding herself just how bleak life is.

    I guess I'm not terribly impressed with Prose's review, such as I understand it from your post.

  34. That's right, many reviewers have called The Goldfinch Dickensian. This gets on Prose's nerves, and mine, too for similar reasons. Except those reviewers are right, it is Dickensian, in a clear sense of the term. The people who use this term have no interest in style whatsoever. Again, gets on the nerves.

    Your interest in the novel is ethical, a matter of message. Prose's is aesthetic. What I like about her review is that she describes her position so clearly. I don't care much if she is right or not.

    1. You have hit the nail on why I read: for message, for truth. That is why it matters to me very much if Prose is right or not.

  35. Evidently Prose wasn't the only one to pan the work. Peter Kemp's review was nominated for Hatchet Job of the Year (link here).

    Supposed best line: "No amount of straining for high-flown uplift can disguise the fact that The Goldfinch is a turkey."

  36. All right, the "turkey" line is terrible - "Cheap, cheap, cheap" as the goldfinch says. But the review is otherwise interesting. His objection is much like Prose's - that the novel is badly made.

  37. What is this? No one, I think, would qualify it as pseudo-intellectual discussion. For one thing, it lacks even the pretension and ambition of shoddy academic debate. No one, after all, even bothers to pretend to have read the book being discussed. And even hacks have standards.

    No, this is something worse than that. Would anyone describe this discussion as a discussion at all, even given the most generous interpretations? A review of a book review, written by a blogger who has read neither the book being reviewed, nor the work of the original reviewer. A thoughtless blog entry that has engendered numerous thoughtless comments by people who have also, admittedly, not bothered to read the book or the review itself. How is this a conversation?

    I used to think, in the eaelier days of the Internet, that the drivel wouldn't survive. All of the crap, the poor writing, the idiocy, would shrivel and die, just as free-market capitalism said it should. Bloggers could publish anything they liked, but once a readership discovered how silly it was, demand would wain, page-visits dwindle, and the poor, worthless authors would find something else to do. Only the superior sites would be left. Web sites like this disprove that hopeful theory. Apparently, people will congregate to a site simply to hear themselves talk. The content is not important.

    The Internet is a wonderful thing. If only it didn't enjoy such magical influence over everyone who owns a computer, everyone who, without a thought in his head, suddenly feels compelled to speak.

  38. At first I thought this amusingly self-refuting comment was generated by a robot, but now I think not.

    You've never talked about a book review you read? How sad.

  39. Don't feed the Moomin. Usually, when those creatures are fed, they climb out from below their bridges and occupy the comments section of many a website.

  40. It's an odd exercise, reviewing a review and you're not making life easier for yourself by refusing to read the book in question. You really should. It's good. It's all about Art and Death. I wrote about briefly here,, but you'd do better just to read the actual novel.

  41. An odd exercise! Have you looked around Wuthering Expectations? It ain't the only one, believe me.

    If I were trying to make life easier for myself, I would do a lot of things differently here. Mostly I am trying to make things harder. What's the fun of writing if it's easy?

    I wonder who has read the book and written about Prose's review? Ah, here's one. It is 100% on Prose's side, so it does not really criticize the review.

    I am fine with Death and love Art, so I expect I would enjoy The Goldfinch, at least the Art stuff. Like you, I read purely for pleasure.

    Thanks for visiting!

  42. "In any given place and times most novels (stories, poems, plays) are written in similar ways. Sameness is the ordinary and unceasing condition of literature. All of those similar books are eventually filtered away and replaced by new books that are all in the same in a different way."

    That is daunting. Nevertheless, I shall go finish my galleys.

  43. Daunting, and true, although there are degrees, many and varied. Luckily, a creative writer has no need to think much about it. Not too much.

    The difficulty for the critic is that it looks like he is surrounded by diversity, even chaos. The sameness only becomes visible over time, often a great deal of time.

    Best of luck with the galleys.

  44. The ridiculous twist towards the end (the switch) made me want to throw the book into the nearest canal. Makes no sense that the narrator fails to take a peek at his beloved painting in eight years.

  45. I never really knew the plot of the novel, but the twist that surprised me was the sermon at the end. How did her readers forgive her for it? Maybe they did Tartt the favor of not reading it.

  46. This novel has serious and obvious flaws. Surely another novel deserved the Pulitzer that year.

  47. The Goldfinch pretty much fits exactly my idea of what deserves the Pulitzer, and what the Pulitzer deserves.