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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.