I had intended to post more quotes from Good Prose: the Art of Nonfiction. However, on Friday I received a book I had requested many weeks ago from the library, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Since I knew that I’d only have two weeks to read this 700+ page book, I started on it right away and was immediately sucked into the world of Theo Decker. While I’m not quite halfway through the book, I know that it will be one to remember for the prose, if nothing else. Donna Tartt’s mastery of descriptions is amazing. Some of the passages have reminded me of poetry in their ability to make me see and feel in words what I have experienced in life.
The library hold slip, which I have been using as a bookmark, is now only one third its original size as I have torn pieces off to mark the many passages that I want to reread and copy and remember. Here are just a few of those marked passages for your enjoyment:
“I was not very excited at the prospect of a lot of pictures of Dutch people standing around in dark clothes, and when we pushed through the glass doors–from echoing halls into carpeted hush–I thought at first we’d gone into the wrong hall. The walls glowed with a warm, dull haze of opulence, a generic mellowness of antiquity; but then it all broke apart into clarity and color and pure Northern light, portraits, interiors, still lifes, some tiny, other majestic: ladies with husbands, ladies with lapdogs, lonely beauties in embroidered gowns and splendid, solitary merchants in jewels and furs. Ruined banquet tables littered with peeled apples and walnut shells; draped tapestries and silver; trompe l’oeils with crawling insects and striped flowers. And the deeper we wandered, the stranger and more beautiful the pictures became. Peeled lemons, with the rind slightly hardened at the knife’s edge, the greenish shadow of a patch of mold. Light striking the rim of a half-empty wine glass.” p. 23
[I especially loved the second sentence. It’s so true when you first walk into a gallery–the overwhelming general color and textures break into individual pieces as you go further in.]
“Even the memory was starting to seem vague and starry with unreality, like a dream where the details get fainter the harder you try to grasp them. What mattered more was the feeling, a rich sweet undertow so commanding that in class, on the school bus, lying in bed trying to think of something safe or pleasant, some environment or configuration where my chest wasn’t tight with anxiety, all I had to do was sink into the blood-red current and let myself spin away to the secret place where everything was alright. Cinnamon-colored walls, rain on the windowpanes, vast quiet and a sense of depth and distance, like varnish over the background of a nineteenth-century painting. Rugs worn to threads, painted Japanese fans and antique valentines flickering in candlelight, Pierrots and doves and flower-garlanded hearts. Pippa’s face pale in the dark.” pp. 149-150
“Sitting there on the edge of her bed, it felt like the waking-up moment between dream and daylight where everything merged and mingled just as it was about to change, all in the same, fluid, euphoric slide:” p. 159
“And the flavor of Pippa’s kiss–bittersweet and strange–stayed with me all the way back uptown, swaying and sleepy as I sailed home on the bus, melting with sorrow and loveliness, a starry ache that lifted me up above the windswept city like a kite: my head in the rainclouds, my heart in the sky.” p. 159
“…almost immediately its glow enveloped me, something almost musical, an internal sweetness that was inexplicable beyond a deep, blood-rocking harmony of rightness, the way your heart beat slow and sure when you were with a person you felt safe with and loved.” p. 317
I’m very concerned about how this story is going to turn out–I’m afraid that it will be like watching a train wreck–but it is irresistible to keep turning the pages, wanting to know what happens next to Theo, how he will make his way in the world on his own, who will help and hurt him, and how The Goldfinch will be a part of the way he lives his life.