Tag Archives: books

A Book Review: The Goldfinch

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It’s not easy being a human, flawed and insatiable as we are. Even when we know an action will cause our own detriment, we continue to pursue or perform such activity, time and time again. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This is the human condition: the thin line of insanity that we walk, hoping for change, or hoping for the same, but mostly just insane for hoping. Yet hope is what makes us most human. Hope brings us closer to one another, perhaps hope tears some of us apart, but hope is what makes the insane person, and hope is why we create art.

In The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt draws upon every fallible bit of humanity, letting us explore through a collection of characters as real as the insanity they portray, exactly what it is to be human. Taking place in Amsterdam, Park Avenue, Las Vegas and the Village, the plot follows a Renaissance painting of a little goldfinch with a chain around it’s ankle. We are pulled through this seamlessly written novel by our earlobe, knowing full well that it is simply the human condition which carries Theo along. He grows into a man through the pages, while we stay hopeful that he might just do it differently this time. It is the set of characters that Theo meets along the way, however, which have me calling this my favorite book of 2014. Boris, the Russian, and Hobie, the antique furniture connoisseur/repair man, are equally alluring in their juxtaposition of darkness and light. Why Theo treats each of them the way that he does, defines the agony that it is to be human.

Ms. Tartt has created a place that I long to visit, the way that I long to tell the me of a decade ago how to make better choices. There is no visiting Theo in Park Avenue as he mourns the death of his mother though, just as there is no way to revisit the me of the past. It is the cross we bear, the knowledge that the choice may come again, along with the wonder of whether we’ll have the strength to decide not to cross the line of insanity this time, or whether to leap right across it – again.

I recommend you read this book, because it is a shot of life. Strong and hard to swallow, but there is a sweet aftertaste and I do think you’ll feel better afterwards. As Tartt so aptly puts it, “Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of despair.” We are a tragic lot, us humans, but there is always hope.

Paper Thin, Black and White, One-Sided, Insatiable, Insomniac Love

I am an intimacy junkie. Ask my boyfriend. I need it like oxygen.

The closeness, the familiarity, the private cozy friendship, the feeling that my feelings are shared. Without it I feel lonely, even in a room full of people. It has only recently occurred to me that the fault of this doesn’t fall upon my parents, or myself, not my sun sign or moon sign. Instead, I have Edith Wharton to blame. Along with Ernest Hemingway, Pat Conroy, Jane Austen and every other author who has written a story with characters so engaging that it became a world within and completely outside of my own.

Books define intimacy. They make you laugh, cry, blush, shiver, shriek, and tremble. You take them to bed with you again and again, and then, never again. They let you in. They show you their deepest and darkest secrets, the really sick ones, and the cheesy ones that just seem like bragging. They trust you. They let you love them. And then it’s over. So, you pick up the next one and hope to be satisfied. Or you stick with the same one, and you learn new things every time. As you grow, it changes, but the closeness is always there.

And, thanks to fabulous people like Mitchell Kaplan, and The Knight Foundation, and Miami Dade College, and everyone who continues to buy books – real, tangible books – this cycle of paper thin, black and white, one-sided, insatiable, insomniac love continues. Because, let’s face it, junkies need their fix.

So, as we welcome the big weekend of the Miami Book Fair International, here are some tips of the trade that I’ve gathered over the last few days to help you navigate the oddly cool and wet streets of Downtown Miami this weekend. Or to help you sound a little more industry savvy at your next book club.

 

1. Books are called “titles” as in, “Do you have the new title by Paulo Coelho?”

2. Published writers are called “authors” as in, “I prefer this author, to that one.”

3. If you are coming to the fair as a writer who is trying to talk to publishers about becoming an author, I’ve got sad news for you, there are not a huge number of opportunities for that. The publisher’s advice: get an agent. On the plus side, there are a huge number of writers wandering around to commiserate with, or to learn from on Writer’s Row.

4. People who work in book stores are called “book sellers.” These are the people who physically get the book into the hands of the public. Thank them, and be patient when they can’t get to you fast enough. There are so many of you, and so few of them.

5. This is the largest literary fair in the country. You should come. It’s only $8. Seniors and teenagers are $5. Kids are free. I assure you there is something for everyone. Like comic books, and funnel cakes.