also known as one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.
I now have quite a long commute. To make it more enjoyable I signed up for an audible.com account (which is just okay so far) so I can listen to audio books that I download instead of fumbling with swapping out CDs (which got annoying). I did music, NPR, and podcasts for a while and still supplement with them but the commute is very long and it’s depressing when you go through two 45 minute podcasts just going one direction. I heard a whisper about this book when reading the NYT book review a few months ago and it sounded intriguing but far too long for me to attempt to read while I was dealing with work, school, running, moving, etc. Then this commute happened and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to indulge in books I would never otherwise find the time to read. Again I would like to mention here that I’m not very good at reading new authors. I rely on friends recommendations or classics when I’m out of books so I decided to start checking out the NYT book review to widen my prospects. Which is really nice and working very well for me. Like online dating but only for books, or maybe exactly what my online dating would be, me reading books and not at all dating.
I had not heard of Donna Tartt before reading that review but now I want to read all of her books, and reading up more about her is interesting as well. The Goldfinch is long, like 700+ pages long, but completely worth it. I love the book so much that I just ordered it in tangible hardcover because I want to reread it again but this time with my eyes. I will admit though that the voices in the audiobook are fantastic. I absolutely love how the voices are done by David Pittu, especially Hobie and Boris. I can’t really describe the plot easily without revealing too much but it’s part mystery, part bildungsroman, part poetry, all weaving in and out of such a vivid and clear view of New York that it made me nostalgic for the east coast. Also it won the Pulitzer which made me really happy and proud almost as if it’s my book.
Here is a quote from the novel that I just can’t get out of my mind.
“I look at the blanked-out faces of the other passengers–hoisting their briefcases, their backpacks, shuffling to disembark–and I think of what Hobie said: beauty alters the grain of reality. And I keep thinking too of the more conventional wisdom: namely, that the pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty has to be wedded to something more meaningful.
Only what is that thing? Why am I made the way I am? Why do I care about all the wrong things, and nothing at all for the right ones? Or, to tip it another way: how can I see so clearly that everything I love or care about is illusion, and yet–for me, anyway–all that’s worth living for lies in that charm?
A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.
Because–isn’t it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture–? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it’s a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what’s right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: “Be yourself.” “Follow your heart.”
Only here’s what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted–? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?…If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or…is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?”
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
And it’s completely true. I can’t change what I want even if I know it is hollowing out my soul with every breath. I want it and that is irrevocable. When I was young and naive and probably really annoying I used to write poetry, mostly bad poetry, under the pen name Elle Veut. It’s French for she wants, and even after all this time it’s still true. Possibly now more than ever. I want all of these things that don’t fit, their shapes are ragged and undefined. They don’t make sense and definitely don’t make my life any easier. But I can’t help it, even when I know that wanting it will completely destroy another part of me I can’t stop. And this is really the first book that ever loudly and clearly vocalized that unalterable truth.
So go read it and then we can talk about the things we want and how they will destroy us.