Artworks in The Goldfinch
April 20, 2014 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Wonderful! It makes me want to go back and re-read The Goldfinch so I can have this beside me for reference. I did look up a few of the main works mentioned but this is really comprehensive. Good stuff.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:26 PM on April 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fascinating collection of art.

I have a problem with Tartt, though. I thought the Secret History was excellent, but that the Little Friend was a wreck, albeit with very clear signs of talent. I thought it was evidently a wreck because of excessive praise and hype together with inappropriate pressure from agent and publishers. The process was lucrative, no doubt, but they denied us the better novel which was in gestation. So I will not read the Goldfinch, even though I have every reason to think it might be good, and even though I know my stance is useless and the tide of money has already swept all before it.

YMM very likely V
posted by Segundus at 1:41 PM on April 20, 2014

What a cool idea. I haven't read any Tartt since The Secret History, but this might be the impetus for me to read The Goldfinch.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:45 PM on April 20, 2014

I liked The Secret History but skipped The Little Friend (I think because of poor reviews). I loved, loved The Goldfinch though I had low to no expectations because of the insane hype. Basically I decided I'd read the first 50 pages and if I still liked it I'd keep reading; if not, I'd quit reading it. But then I feel pretty much zero guilt about abandoning books if I don't like them. Life is too short!

I think I was hooked within the first 20 pages of The Goldfinch. Yeah, there are some issues with it, but reading it was a real experience for me...I mean, I love reading and I do read quite a lot, but it's been a while since I had an experience with a book that was so immersive. Reading this novel brought me back to how I felt as a kid when I would get a giant new book for Christmas and just spend Boxing Day devouring it, reading and reading and reading until I was finished. I would tune out everyone else and just become lost in the world of the book. I know, it sounds a bit cheesy, but that was how I felt reading The Goldfinch. I was lucky enough that my library hold came in the day before I had a non-teaching week, so I had the luxury of time to just READ to the exclusion of almost everything else. So for me, it wasn't just about the book itself, but about how I felt while reading the book, if that makes any sense.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:07 PM on April 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

inappropriate pressure from agent and publishers.

Pressure? She's had what, eleven years between books? For the Goldfinch, that's a little over one page a week. Clearly she's not one for giving into pressure, if pressure there was. For good or ill, the buck stops with the author.

Possibly she's a one book writer. Nothing wrong with that.

The concept of Secret History was brilliant, execution mostly good (though I thought it kind of dribbled out at the end), but that sort of put her in the position of Harper Lee - what do you do for a follow up? MM petered out when I tried the Little Friend and was a) bored, b) irritated with the prose. Too self-conscious. Ditto the Goldfinch.

But, she clearly many disagree and she brings pleasure to many and harm to none so far as I know, so let her roll on to greater glory. Hey, I'd rather have her opera on my tombstone than Fifty Shades of Suicide Yellow.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:12 PM on April 20, 2014

hurdy gurdy girl: "So for me, it wasn't just about the book itself, but about how I felt while reading the book, if that makes any sense."

It makes perfect sense. The Goldfinch is an "entertainment" in the purest Graham Greene sense of the word, a rollicking intellectual adventure that is more James Bond than Jane Eyre, and I get the feeling Tartt takes herself much less seriously than most of her reviewers.

(I just finished listening to Tartt read Charles Portis' True Grit. Another serious writer who doesn't take himself too seriously and is all the more entertaining for it. Tartt's reading of it is word/tone perfect.)
posted by chavenet at 2:17 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm only a quarter of the way through it and have, thanks to tumblr, been calling it Harry Potter And The Priceless Work Of Art.

This is a compliment.
posted by The Whelk at 2:20 PM on April 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Well, I came in here knowing fuck all about any of it, but the art is getting me to read the book, so there's that.
posted by Samizdata at 2:20 PM on April 20, 2014

This is wonderful. I'm wondering - the furniture pieces mentioned, are those pieces that were in Hobie's shop, or similar to pieces in his shop, or from another part of the book entirely?

I also skipped The Little Friend, despite loving The Secret History. Sophomore slumps are common and it seems odd to boycott an author because of one, but it also seems like something a Tartt character would do.

However, I find it hard to explain how much I loved The Goldfinch. It reminded me of book-reading experiences from childhood, where the book just enveloped me and I was under its spell and I never wanted to leave. I felt like it taught me something about humanity that I had never quite understood before. By the end of the book, I felt that I knew the characters so well.

I suspect I will probably read The Goldfinch over and over again, like I did for years with my favorite novels from childhood.
posted by lunasol at 2:23 PM on April 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hurdy gurdy girl: should have previewed before I posted, because it sounds like we had the same experience.
posted by lunasol at 2:25 PM on April 20, 2014

So I will not read the Goldfinch, even though I have every reason to think it might be good

I've been sitting here trying to imagine what could possibly be the moral principle that you're basing this action on and nothing will come to me. You rigorously refuse to enjoy any work of art which was created by an artist who was influenced by anything other than pure aesthetic choices? By and large that is going to leave you with finger-paintings by kids--and even some of those are probably suspect.
posted by yoink at 2:26 PM on April 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

lunasol: it sounds like we had the same experience.

It does! I know exactly what you mean! I am a bit sad now because I want that same experience with another book. I received Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries for my birthday so I've got hopes for that one.

Re: the furniture--I think those are maybe some from the Barbours' apartment, as well as pieces from Hobie's shop and




pieces that Theo is referencing when he sells Hobie's homages/pastiches as The Real Thing.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:32 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

call me a grouch if you must but I found the book tedious
posted by Postroad at 2:41 PM on April 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I swear I am the only person who loved the Little Friend and was a bit " that was fun " with The Secret History.
posted by The Whelk at 2:42 PM on April 20, 2014

i just read reviews and synopsises (synopses?) on amazon for her 3 books.

The Little Friend seems almost like a Stephen King book, a la Rose Madder. Which is fine.

Her other books..those reviews seem full of backhanded compliments and I find it odd that a seemingly shoddy piece of work (based on reviews) would win the Pulitzer.

But I'm a sucker for a book with lots of art references and I lose the tinier details in any long book, so the plot holes probably won't be noticeable to me.

I'll have to give it a whirl. I had never heard of her before this post.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 3:28 PM on April 20, 2014

I will not read the Goldfinch, even though I have every reason to think it might be good

I can think of all kinds of perfectly good reasons to skip reading a book - I haven't read the subject of this fpp (yet) myself because I have a lot of other books in the pipepline - but this one seems to boil down to cutting off your nose to spite your face. I can understand not wanting to give money to the publisher or the hype machine or whatever, but there are a lot of ways around that, and the most obvious ones aren't even illegal.

I do look forward to going through the stuff linked here though, because it looks way cool! Thanks!
posted by rtha at 4:05 PM on April 20, 2014

hurdy gurdy girl - That immersion in a book, where it consumes you such that the sun's shadows visibly cross the floor as you stay sitting on the couch for hours and hours - it's bliss! And it happened with me and The Goldfinch too. (Minor derail, but I had the same experience with The Fault In Our Stars - I was wary of the hype, then fell in love with it. Give it a try if you haven't. I'm always on the lookout for books that make me sad because they've ended.)

I want to go back and reread The Goldfinch now that I have this list for reference. And I've not read her other stuff so I'll check them out.

Thanks for the great post! Yay reading!
posted by flyingsquirrel at 4:12 PM on April 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I actually just started this book this morning. To avoid the mild spoilers, I haven't clicked the link yet...can I use this as I read (and stay unspoiled) by starting at the bottom and working my way up?
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:24 PM on April 20, 2014

Somebody has done the same thing for Proust.
posted by shothotbot at 5:45 PM on April 20, 2014

I'm another one who got immersed in the book. It was a bit of escapism for me, since I was going through a rough patch at the time. I thoroughly enjoyed the description of Hobie's home, and it felt as much of a refuge to me as it did to Theo. But I think the high point of the book for me was the depiction of Theo and Boris doing LSD in the playground - just fantastic writing, richly imagined and visualized.
posted by jenh526 at 5:55 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the Goldfinch much more than the Secret History. Felt like it had more of a point.
posted by likeatoaster at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2014

Ian A.T., I think you should be able to stay pretty spoiler free if you do that.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:48 PM on April 20, 2014

I received Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries for my birthday so I've got hopes for that one.

I had the same experience with The Fault In Our Stars - I was wary of the hype, then fell in love with it. Give it a try if you haven't.

This thread is fantastic for the book recommendations alone. Personally, I'm hoping Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings will fill that Goldfinch-shaped hole.
posted by lunasol at 7:26 PM on April 20, 2014

I loved the book as well, and looked up some of the art while I was reading, but this is a terrific collection. And lunasol -- I lovedlovedloved The Interestings and it definitely did the same thing for me that The Goldfinch did for a lot of us. There's nothing like diving into a book and only surfacing when you have to eat, or, you know, go to work or something.

Great link and I can't wait to explore it further when I have a little time.
posted by OolooKitty at 8:22 AM on April 21, 2014

I put this together, and I'm glad people liked it! I'm not a very visual thinker, so I was having trouble understanding some of the scene-setting and started looking up all the pictures. Then I started using post-it flags and things just kind-of snowballed. I'm glad it did, though, because the pictures really underline a lot of the themes in the novel, which I may not have picked up on as clearly without the art to go with them! It was also interesting to see how some of the characters in the book had their personalities underlined by what they talk about w/r/t art ... Mrs. Barbour almost exclusively discusses (and owns) New England/New York art from prior to the Civil War, for example. And how the various characters talk about the art, what they point out, what they value, what they notice, also tends to underline their character's desires.

It also highlighted to me how vivid the visual imagery in the novel was (I kept mentally creating sets for the inevitable movie-or-miniseries adaptation) ... often with her description from the text, without the picture's name (and without much knowledge of art, particularly from this era), I was able to pinpoint exactly which picture she was talking about! For example, I located Three Medlars with a Butterfly from "a white butterfly against a dark ground, floating over some red fruit. The background - a rich chocolate black" and knowing it was from the Dutch golden age ... not until a little further along in the text does she mention it's Adriaen Coorte, which confirmed I'd found the right picture!

Where I couldn't identify a specific picture, or only the artist was mentioned in passing, I tried to pick a typical example, or something in the Met's holdings, or whatever. The furniture antiques are just examples of the style, as close to the book's description as I could find. For example, it mentions a van der Mijn, a Hendricks, and a Rembrandt all as a group with no further specifics, so I picked three portraits, and it's quite clear looking at the three together how vastly superior Rembrandt is as an artist, even if when you look at Rembrandt in isolation you're just like "yeah, boring pictures of grumpy dudes" which, I must confess, was my reaction to most of the Dutch Masters before reading this book. Looking at the antiques was interesting too, because most of the good pictures are on auction sites, so I got to read a lot about valuation and provenance and so forth as I was hunting for the closest match, and see how carefully Tartt did her research on those things.

In terms of spoilers, you can read about halfway up the page through "Queen Anne lowboy in Walnut (not mahogany) from Salem MA Area, 18th C, p.468 ("a mahogany lowboy -- Queen Anne, Salem Massachusetts -- that had been in her mother's familiy since the 1760s.")" before you hit any significant spoilers (the next pin has a spoiler in it) and then you can read almost to the top, to the picture of the white duck that is mentioned on page 741 before running into another spoiler. (The white duck and the next three pins have a spoiler.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:46 AM on April 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

I almost hated The Goldfinch by the end, and I wonder how seeing the art as presented on this Pinterest board would have changed my opinion. Thanks for the effort, Eyebrows McGee! I'll at least look for something like this next time I'm reading something appropriate.

I don't know if the art would have helped all that much though. Funny many of you bring up The Interestings - I felt the same way about both novels. So much promise, so much in need of better editing.
posted by lyssabee at 9:53 AM on April 21, 2014

Thank you for this Eyebrows McGee. I'm going to have to re-read the book now.
posted by night_train at 12:10 PM on April 21, 2014

Yeah as I said I'm only a quarter in but the sheer visuality of the language and how it feels true to my own reactions to affecting art and paintings. Like there's a scene early in where atheo sees the scene with the social workers reflected in the mirror and I had an INSTANT flash of what kind of Dutch Master painting it was mimicking.
posted by The Whelk at 3:20 PM on April 21, 2014

I really love A Secret History, and skipped her second book, but knew I'd at least want to give The Goldfinch a try. I loved it for about half the book, and then realized that I was vaguely irritated by it in the same way that I was with Lev Grossman's The Magicians, although Theo's journey makes more sense (avoiding trying to say too much) than the main characters in that book. It just got a little tough to slog through. I ruthlessly skipped forward, and was very moved by the ending.

I'm not sure. I literally finished it about twenty minutes ago. I may have to let it soak and then try again, but sometimes I get exhausted by staying in the headspace of her protagonists and this one is a great deal of traumatized landscape to traverse.
posted by PussKillian at 5:47 PM on April 21, 2014

The Goldfinch is one of the more maddening books I've read in a long time. On the one hand, one of the few page turners with artistic heft and some amazing moments of truly good writing. While it seems there are a lot of genre (and other) writers who can get you to dive headfirst into a book and not come up for air until it's all over, there are very few who can do so with cultural insight, aesthetic acuity, and really dazzling prose.

On the other hand, all the characters are horrible pastiches of people from other books, the main character is a total drip, and empathy is a four letter word in the world she's created. By the end I felt like one of the suckers who bought Hobie's frauds the main character (I literally do not remember his name) was selling out of the shop whilst supposedly addicted to opiates.

Thank you though, for this link, because at the end of the day the book did make me appreciate certain artworks and furniture more than I had, and there's value in that.
posted by cell divide at 9:06 PM on April 21, 2014

Belated thanks for this link! I'm in the midst of the book right now, having reread The Secret History in preparation. I'm liking it enough that I have plans to read The Little Friend soonish too.

I was lukewarm about The Secret History even though it turned me into a mystery reader. Someone sent me A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) which has a very similar plot. I hadn't known that not all mysteries were whodunits. I think at the time, those two books were likely rather original in that respect. But from page to page it was rather rough sledding. It seems as if Tartt loves to describe day to day living that's not terribly pleasant and to make the reader live through that unpleasantness. (The section with the character living in the unheated factory seemed to go on and one even though it was probably about 10 pages.)

Rereading The Secret History, and also reading The Goldfinch, they both seem old-fashioned to me. More like The Recognitions by William Gaddis, or Darconville's Cat by Alexander Theroux, or some other cult novel like that. And I am just so glad that these novels can still get published. I'm finding The Goldfinch a little frustrating because it sets off a lot of literary-reference hunting in my mind that I'm not sure is going any place and I think I appreciate it more than I really enjoy it. But again, I'm so glad it's there.
posted by BibiRose at 7:43 AM on May 4, 2014

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