Friday, April 29, 2011

Addicted to Writing, Not to Mention Reading!

It's true that I often wake up in the middle of the night and compose a complete post in my head. My friend Don gave me a little recorder that I can keep handy in order to write down my thoughts, but with the typical hubris of those who can't believe they're aging, I always figure I'll remember everything word for word in the morning. NOT!

This post is a query. Why would I continue to punish myself day after day listening to this Donna Tartt novel, The Secret History? It's at once fascinating and repelling and, I might add, in huge need of a better editor! There is so much extraneous material in there. If I were to be snarky, I might say that all the references to the Greeks and the classics are simply an opportunity for the author to show off her extensive knowledge.

Most readers will likely blow past these contrivances and zero in on the murder mystery. The thing is, it's so much more than that. I immediately compared this book to a Patricia Highsmith novel - think, The Talented Mister Ripley - later reading reviews that suggested the same thing. Perhaps it's knowing how diabolical Highsmith is that I keep on, waiting for the awful deed to happen. The suspense is killing me!

Tartt's characters don't seem to have a redeeming quality among them. Twenty somethings, attending an exclusive college in New England, they are so full of themselves, so sure of their brilliance, hand-chosen by the dubiouly tolerated classics professor for a private curriculum in Greek and Latin, these young men and one woman share a sense of entitlement that seems so outdated it's hardly believable.

Entering into this exclusive group is the narrator, Richard Papen, a scholarship student from a low brow California family, whose desire to be accepted is palpably sad. One wonders what he would do to become an "insider." Then there's Bunny, there's one in every crowd, whose whole reason for being is to identify the hidden weakness of each person in the group and then to tease or embarass that person unrelentingly, in an effort to boost his own low self esteem.

If I'm not making this sound like a recommendation, you're right. And yet...there's something so sinister, so slowly, inexorably evil about these people that curiosity as to just how far they'll go to protect themselves and their way of life keeps the reader turning the pages. This book must have been sold to a movie house. I can't believe it won't be appearing some day soon at a theatre near you.

If my ladies from Birmingham are still reading, a shout out to you. Would love to have a chat about your take on the royal goings on at Buckingham today. Full disclosure, against my better judgement, I did take my coffee and newspaper into the living room this morning to catch a glimpse of the happy couple. Hope springs eternal, so they say.

Next up, a marvelously written book, Foreign Bodies, by Cynthia Ozick.

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