February 11, 2014

Uborka Book Club: The Goldfinch

Uborkans of the literary persuasion (and let’s face it, this is probably most of you) rejoice! Bang the gavel! Raise your wine glasses or teacups, depending on your preferred beverage for reading accompaniment! For the first installment of Uborka’s 2014 Book Club is now in session. Ahoy-hoy.

The GoldfinchI’m so very excited about the first book of the year, because “The Goldfinch” ((You would not believe (or depending on how well you know me, you would) how I struggled in deciding how best to indicate the book title here. Should I do italics as prescribed by Chicago and the MLA? What about AP style which dictates that book titles should be set in quotation marks? And what do I even know about what’s most common in British publications? Or should I emulate one of those literary hangers-on (publicists, agents, their ilk) and obnoxiously CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING to indicate a certain in-crowd behavior which, to me, smacks of a press release I don’t want to read arriving unbidden in my inbox? I decided to stick to the style deployed by my venerated local paper, a little rag called the New York Times you may know, and go with AP quotation marks. But in your discussions, Uborkans, please do as thou wilt. This tortured stylistic aside is a journey I am accustomed to going solo. Listen this may come as a surprise to you but it’s not for nothing that Stuart assigned me the Dewey Decimal Number most associated with pedantry.)) has been the most engrossing reading experience I’ve had in the last few years, and most of the friends I know who’ve read it had the same experience. It just pulls you right in.

I know some Uborkans have already devoured this gorgeous sprawling novel in the last few months, and I hope they’ll come along with me as fellow wanderers, commenting on their favorite passages and plot twists. But  what can I say to convince you, the newcomer to Donna Tartt, that this book is worth your precious time?

  • It’s a novel about but not limited to: New York, art (specifically the Dutch masters but more broadly the universal appeal of truly great art), terrorism and trauma, drugs, childhood friendships, Las Vegas, crime and punishment, about how they fuck you up, your mum and dad (with apologies to Philip Larkin), the transcendent power of love and luck, and some really exquisite antique furniture.
  • Don’t get starry-eyed by all its high lit crit praise. It’s an absolutely gripping read from the very first few pages; for all her artistic swoops, Tartt writes fiction in a way that loops around your waist and pulls you along immediately. There are some draggier, slower sections of the book (it’s an epic, after all, arguably life has some draggy slow sections) which we will definitely discuss. Overall I think the effect is rushing and delicious, totally immersive. It will be the fastest eight hundred pages you’ve ever read.
  • It’s been compared and owes a great debt to Dickens, although I hope those with more Dickensian bona fides will step in and guide us through those comparisons because my familiarity with his work is patchy.
  • Flawed and human though they may be, you will fall in love with these characters. Not in a manipulative way, but simply from the depth and breadth of how Tartt lets you into their lives.
  • Boris. Just, BORIS. Trust me on this. You’re gonna love Boris.

Okay! That’s my elevator pitch, assuming we got into the elevator together and I immediately jammed the emergency button and pressed this book into your hands with a maniacal gleam in my eyes. Who’s in? Feel free to read for the first time, re-read (which I’m doing) or just chime in with your favorite parts as we discuss the book.

So in the comments, let me know:

  1. If you’ll be reading along or just following along as someone who’s already read it
  2. whether two or three weeks is a more reasonable time frame for you

I’ll start a post going next Wednesday where we can at least discuss Book I, or perhaps Books I and II depending on how far along everyone is.


9 thoughts on “Uborka Book Club: The Goldfinch

  1. I’m in. I read it a few books ago and failed to make notes, but I’m still in.

  2. I will read along. You convinced me: I bought it *on pre-order*, hoping for another secret history (my most-loved most-reread most-gifted book ever) and not a little friend but have been too scared to read it after all the wishy washy reviews it received. You have persuaded me to give it a go. Three weeks would be good for me, please, I have commitments etc etc. Plus, Karen has convinced me to give the little friend another go. Maybe. I read it very fast and on a plane so perhaps it deserves a second attempt.

  3. Hurrah! Lisa, I definitely think there’s room (particularly towards the end of our book club) for us to talk about the other two books in the Tartt oeuvre; I’ve got some very emotional and somewhat traumatized memories of reading “The Secret History” in college that I want to air.

  4. I’m in! I devoured the first 600 pages and then realised it was going to end, and so have been taking demitasse sips for the past few weeks. I’ve also been listening to the audio version of the novel, but only sections I’ve already read. David Pittu’s delivery of Xander’s “apparently” is razor sharp.

    Like you, it is the first book I have been whole-heartedly enthusiastic about in years. Art, trauma, grief, family, friendship, love, obsession, deceit, delusions and dreams. This is a big book.

    As the daughter of a librarian, and a former, long ago daily newspaper hack, I endorse your choice of quotation marks. Here’s to ” The Goldfinch”.

  5. Good good good good. Can’t wait to read it. I loved the Secret History, and love the idea of this one.

    (I’m not in yet though, because it’s hardback and too heavy to lift. Waiting patiently for the paperback. )

  6. OK. I’m a Tartt virgin, but in theory I’m in! Next book on my pile. I’ve read some Dickens and loved it, so I’m intrigued on that basis alone (actually, John Irving reminds me a little of Dickens. Weirdly, so too does Terry Pratchett in places, so perhaps I’m not the best judge!)

  7. I’m in! I’ve been meaning to read this for ages. 3 weeks seems a good time scale. Sometimes I read books fast, sometimes slow. Though I have lots of train journeys next week, so it might be a fast one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *