Tag: donna tartt

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I Heart Donna Tartt: 10 Facts About Mysterious Author of ‘The Goldfinch’

Donna Tartt has written three books in her thirty-year writing career—each intricate, fascinating, and hugely different from one another. She broke out in 1992 with her debut The Secret History, a tale of ritual, murder, and intrigue among an insular, intense group of college students at a small college in Vermont. She followed this almost a decade later with The Little Friend, a divisive tale of childhood and revenge which asked more questions than it answered. Her third novel, The Goldfinch, won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, and is now being adapted for the big screen. Tartt is without question one of my favorite authors. Her style is enough to intrigue anyone, but she herself is also intriguing, and, for someone so famed and enormously well-respected, we know very little about her. 

 

Image Via The Guard

Image Via The Guardian 

 

1. She memorized insane amounts of poetry as a small child.

 

Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1963, and grew up in a literary home which featured, along with her book-loving parents, several eccentric aunts and cats. As a child, Tartt would memorize long poems, starting with A.A. Milne, “then I went through a Kipling phase. I could say ‘Gunga Din’ for you. Then I went into sort of a Shakespeare phase, when I was about in sixth grade. In high school, I loved loved loved Edgar Allan Poe. Still love him. I could say ‘Annabel Lee’ for you now. I used to know even some of the shorter stories by heart. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’—I used to be able to say that.” Tartt stated that she began composing her own poetry at the age of eight, and had her first poem published at thirteen. 

 

2. She didn’t quite fit in at cheerleading camp.

 

Once, at cheerleading camp, which took place in a sorority house, Tartt filled the Sunshine Box “—which her fellow Kappas would fill with sayings on scraps of paper, epigrams dear to their hopeful hearts, apothegms of uplift, treasured most about life and lemons and lemonade—with vile sayings by Nietzsche and Sartre. ‘God is dead. . . . And we have killed him’ and ‘Hell is other people.'” The other girls knew it was her and demanded she confess. But she refused. 

 

3. Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, and Peter Pan make their way into all of her books.

 

At thirteen, she read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which, she says, has made its way into all of her books, as has Peter Pan. “There’s something of Peter Pan in every single thing I’ve written. It’s there in everything, very, very deeply. Peter Pan was the first book I loved that I read to myself. It was a drug, an altered state of consciousness. You weren’t at your school. You were really somewhere else.”

 

Image Via Pinterest

Image Via Pinterest 

 

4. Charles Dickens is her favorite writer.

 

Charles Dickens was her first love. She told the Irish Independent that “Oliver Twist was the first book I read with real blood and death in it. I would worry about Oliver all day at school.” She still cites Dickens as her favorite author and the one who inspired the complex plots of her own works. On Dickens’ influence in The Goldfinch, she commented “Theo’s setup is Dickensian. I love Dickens a lot and just kind of internalize him.”

 

5. She maybe dated Bret Easton Ellis.

 

She started out attending the University of Mississippi. Barry Hannah, who admitted her to his graduate course on the short story when she was just eighteen, said,  “she was deeply literary. Just a rare genius, really. A literary star.” Tartt later transferred to Bennington College, Vermont in 1982, where she befriended fellow student Bret Easton Ellis, with whom it is thought she had a relationship while they worked on their respective novels The Secret History and Less Than Zero

 

6. Apects of her first novel closely mirror her time at Bennington.

 

While at Bennington, at age nineteen, Tartt began writing The Secret History, whose location and characters mirrored closely small, liberal arts college Bennington and the students Tartt knew there. Tartt was a member of a select class of students who were taught Greek literature by famed professor Claude Fredericks. Her first novel follows a group of insular, alluring classics students taught by an eccentric professor Julian Morrow, who have murdered one of their own. She told Salon, “I went to a very small, very insular college. I think that’s just how the world naturally arranges itself around me. Even when I come to the biggest cities in the world, everything is a series of small rooms.”

 

Image Via Vogue

Image Via Vogue

 

7. She dresses extremely well.

 

She has impeccable personal style, for which she is famous. During her rare public appearances, Tartt usually wears tailored suits, colored cravats and and has her hair cut in a sharp, distictive bob. She always pays close attention to what her characters wear, meticulously describing their clothing.

 

donnna

Images Via Pinterest /CNN/ The Telegraph

 

8. Her writing process is intense.

 

Her writing process is long and intricate. She writes all the time, “like a pianist with scales or an artist with a sketch book,” and takes up to ten years per novel, writing first by hand, “making notes in red and blue pencil, stapling note cards to the pages and when the notebooks start to fall apart she prints out drafts, and each new draft is printed on a corresponding shade of paper.” She first got the idea for The Goldfinch when she saw Fabritius’s painting in Holland while on tour for The Secret History. The painting was hung above her eyeline, compelling her to “gaze up, yearningly.”

 

9. On her alleged reclusiveness, Tartt told The Irish Independent:

 

[Book tours are] just distracting. It’s better for me to be at home and getting on with my work than standing up and talking about a book. It’s very counterproductive. I’d go mad if I had to go on a book tour every two years. I’d go completely berserk. I can just about handle it once every decade… Just because you don’t go to a lot of literary galas and things doesn’t make you reclusive…Joan Didion writes a beautiful essay about Howard Hughes who was a lonely recluse but also a kind of weird American hero who built the whole city of Las Vegas and Joan Didion said, ‘he’s the last private man, the dream we no longer admit’.

 

10. Her answering machine message is T.S. Eliot, reading from “The Waste Land.”

 

I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.

Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,

Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:

One must be so careful these days.”

 

Image Via Pinterest

Tartt with her pug, Pongo. | Image Via Pinterest

 

Featured Image Via Vogue

willa fitzgerald and the goldfinch

‘The Goldfinch’ Adaptation Grows Its Cast!

With each casting announcement I grow equal parts more apprehensive and excited for the upcoming adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. 

 

First, Ansel Elgort was named the protagonist, Theodore Decker, a young man who, as a child, survives a terrorist attack on an art museum, which kills his mother. His life subsequently takes many wild turns, leading him from New York to Las Vegas where he lives with his very dodgy dad, and then back to the East Coast where he becomes involved in art forgeries and the criminal underworld. It’s a trip. After Elgort, Dunkirk‘s Aneurin Barnard was cast as Boris, followed by none other than Sarah Paulson as Theo’s trashy stepmother Xandra (How good? So good). And now it’s been announced Willa Fitzgerald will play Kitsey Barbour.

 

Image Via Twitter, Glamour, Willa Fitzgerald and Click Ittefaq

Image Via Twitter, Glamour, Willa Fitzgerald and Click Ittefaq

 

So why apprehensive, you ask? Why not just excited? Because you can never count on the adaptation of your favorite book being good enough or on-point enough or well-cast enough or anything enough to satisfy your ferociously specific and obsessive bookworm needs.

 

Via Giphy

Via Giphy

 

But I digress. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the cast so far. Elgort really proved himself this year in Baby Driver, Bernard looks exactly how I imagined Boris, Paulson can do no wrong, and Fitzgerald looks fairly Kitsey-like. And on top of that, she is playing Meg in the upcoming mini-series adaptation of Little Women, about which I am also very excited and apprehensive, but that’s a story for another article. The Goldfinch will be Fitzgerald’s biggest role to date, having starred in MTV’s Scream, and Alpha House.

 

Variety reports that Amazon Studios will co-finance The Goldfinch, and it will begin production in early 2018, and Warner Bros. will distribute the film. 

 

Featured Image Via willafitzgerald.com and Target

sarah paulson

Sarah Paulson Joins Cast of ‘The Goldfinch’

All three of Donna Tartt’s novels constitute three of my favorite books. They’re vast, intricate, dark, and cinematic. And yet none have yet been adapted for the big screen. That is about to change, however, with the news breaking that Warner Bros. finalized a deal with Amazon Studios to co-finance a film version of The Goldfinch

 

Reader, I LOVE The Goldfinch. It is just supreme. And I must say, thus far I have not been overwhelmed by the choice of actors. Sarah Paulson is the third actor to be officially announced as part of the cast of the upcoming adaptation of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, and this is the first time one of these announcements has made me really happy.

 

The first actor to join the cast was Ansel Elgort about whom I am deeply ambivalent. Aneurin Bernard of Dunkirk fame then signed on as Boris. He definitely looks the part, so I wasn’t too miffed, but haven’t seen Dunkirk and therefore cannot judge him. However, Sarah Paulson will be a perfect Xandra. I am buzzed to see her take on the role of Theo’s (Elgort) dodgy Las Vegas-based stepmother. 

 

The Goldfinch

Image Via Wikipedia 

 

If you have yet to read The Goldfinch (I envy you, you’ve such a treat in store) then let me give you a brief synopsis, courtesy of Amazon: 

 

Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love–and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

 

Still need to be convinced? Stephen King, no less, had this to say about Tartt’s masterpiece, upon its publication in 2013: 

 

The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind….Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction.

 

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book and am therefore very apprehensive about any attempts to adapt it. However, Sarah Paulson’s involvement puts me at ease because everything she’s in tends to be good and I trust her. Fingers crossed.

 

Feature Image Via Daily Beast

goldfinch and fates and furies cover

5 of the Best Named Characters in Literature

As a child, I was obsessed with names. I bought myself an enormous book of baby names which remains to this day the most annotated text I own. But I wasn’t obsessed with babies. Just names. Names for pets, names for dolls, names for characters in games and stories and drawings. NAAAAAMES.

 

So here are some of my favorite names in literature. Not all of them, of course, because there are far too many. But some. Some really, really good ones. 

 

1. Lancelot Satterwhite – Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

 

cover

Image Via Wikipedia 

 

Many characters in Groff’s triumphant, sprawling novel have excellent or at least unusual names: Denton Thrasher (!), Gwennie, Chollie, Mathilde, but the trophy goes to the protagonist Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwhite. What a name. Many of the monikers that crop up in this novel are almost too good to be true, by which I mean, if it were any other text that deals with the human condition from differing perspectives, such names would take the reader out of the text, would render the story ever so slightly unbelievable, make it seem untrue. However, Groff’s names only add another element of dreaminess and impressiveness to her beautiful, ambitious book. While Lancelot is commonly associated with the royal and impressive, the name Satterwhite is not one I had encountered before. According to Genealogy.com, the name means settlement in the thwaite or woodland clearing. ‘The Satterwhites were Norsemen who first migrated to England and then on to America.’ By directly referencing the family’s origins and specific location in the name, Groff could be drawing a contrast between it and Lancelot’s constant search for belonging. A king with no throne. 

 

2. Dido Twite – Black Hearts in Battersea and Nightbirds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken

 

overs

Images Via Amazon and Pinterest

 

Oh look, she is talking about Joan Aiken again. “What a surprise,” you say. Soon I will have converted you all to the wonders of the Aiken-verse. Soon. Perhaps once you’ve read about precocious urchin Dido Twite you too will become a loyal follower. Dido, a Cockney orphan, befriends my first literary crush, artist, and bee-keeper Simon, when he moves to London to study art after the events of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. She is:

 

a shrewish-looking little creature of perhaps eight or nine, with sharp eyes of a pale washed-out blue and no eyebrows or eyelashes to speak of. Her straw-coloured hair was stringy and sticky with jam and she wore a dirty satin dress two sizes too small for her.

 

She is hilarious, infuriating, smart, and goes on to be the protagonist of several more novels in the Wolves sequence. In Greek mythology, Dido was the founder of Carthage (Tunisia) and while the idea of Dido being at all royal or divine seems at the beginning laughable, as her story progresses, her hidden depths justify her great name.

 

3. Lucius Reeve – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

 

cover

Image Via Goodreads

 

Donna Tartt is another author who excels not only in the field of writing in general, but specifically in the naming of characters. The Goldfinch is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a vast, ambitious tome that moves between New York and Los Vegas, loss and friendship, crime and love. It contains characters called things like Hobie, Xandra, and Kitsy (I don’t need to tell you what they’re like; you already know because those names are so well-selected).  Lucius Reeve is, as you might expect, a slimy antiques dealer. He is a fairly minor character in the great scheme of the novel, but he is so aptly named. Granted, there are not that many friendly Luciuses in fiction *glares accusingly at Lucius Malfoy* but that is because it just such an appropriately bad name. It sounds almost like luscious (a slightly creepy word anyway) but can also be made into a spiteful hiss of an utterance. Apologies to any Luciuses reading. It’s not my fault you’re evil. 

 

4. Bustopher Jones – Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot.

 

cover

Image Via Amazon

 

A character in T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and later in the Broadway musical Cats! Here are some things to know about the wonderfully named Bustopher Jones:

 

Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones – / In fact, he’s remarkably fat…No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers / And we’re all of us proud to be nodded or bowed to / By Bustopher Jones in white spats!

 

Bustopher is one of many marvelously titled felines in Eliot’s poetry collection, along with Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer, and Skimbleshanks among others. I like Bustopher Jones because it’s a terribly pleasing, round-sounding name that evokes the smug swagger of a life-loving cat. I also like him because I like the mention of trousers in his poem. When I was small, my godmother had two cats, Trousers and Puddings. When left alone in the house, Trousers would turn on the taps, the radio and the heating and have himself a good party. Puddings did not participate. As an adult, I learned her name was not actually Puddings, but Shitless. Because she was scared shitless of everything. I had been lied to. 

 

5. Coriander – I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

 

cover

Image Via Wikipedia

 

Coriander, or as it is referred to in the US, cillantro, is a controversial herb. People get tattoos about how much they love or hate it. I am reasonably indifferent to coriander as a seasoning, but I love it as a name and I adore Sally Gardner’s novel. Coriander is not exactly a divisive character, but hers is an un-Christian name and there is an attempt made to get her to change it to Ann. Coriander is nine for much of the plot. Nine and a bit lost and also caught in the midst of fairy activity and the political intrigue of Puritan London. It’s a pretty cool mixture and a pretty cool book with a pretty cool name.

 

I don’t think I had highlighted, noted and researched any of these names in my studying of the precious names book. In fact, most of these names weren’t even featured (there is a severe lack of baby Bustophers scampering about) so that’s why I take such great delight in these ones- the absurd, the evocative, the unusual. NAAAAAMES.

 

Featured Image Via Goodreads and Wikipedia