Monday, May 5, 2014

The Goldfinch

You should read this.  I know its getting a lot of attention and sometimes that makes me suspect of things --  but this attention is for good reason.  

I read this 700 odd page book in about a week.  It has all the best things; great character development, a twisty plot and beautifully crafted language.  I kept thinking she does with words what I try to do with paint.  She can be writing about walking down the sidewalk, something everyone does, but in such a way that I am both instantly familiar with the type of day and mood but also written with a freshness that I have never thought to express.

On top of that, the book orbits around the topic of great art.  In particular, the painting by Fabritius The Goldfinch, but also in broader ways.  It discusses that magical realm in which great art lives, between the illusion and the paint, and she posits that is where great love lives too: 

“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.” 

And she talks about the love that is so real and serious and specific to looking at a certain piece of art and feeling it in your stomach:

“—if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.” 

"For if disaster and oblivion have followed this painting down through time—so too has love. Insofar as it is immortal (and it is) I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality. It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.” 

And as a result of writing such a story about such real things, Tartt has made a thing like the paintings she discusses, a real gem to grab onto and feel deeply through.


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