Unlike Oliver Twist , the entire big book is in the first person, so a grown-up Oliver is telling his own story, making the book a lot more like Great Expectations. A painting and a lot of stuff about fine art is in the novel, too, about as un-Dickensian a subject as there is. I am picking this up from reviews, that of Prose and others. The other section of Honors English was reading Great Expectations.
Mine was reading Walden ; and I hid myself in the coolness and silence of the book, a refuge from the sheet-metal glare of the desert. Cute, right, the presence of the absence of Dickens. But I have not read the novel, so perhaps there are as many parallels with and references to Henry David Thoreau. Neither of those fragments sounds the least bit like Dickens.
This is, after all, his first book, and he is writing a memoir, not a novel. I assume this problem is explained away early in the novel. Perhaps Theo Decker murdered someone. Near the end of the review Prose invokes Great Expectations herself, the paragraph describing Mrs. I hope a book blogger who loves The Goldfinch is working on a five-part rebuttal to Prose right now — The Goldfinch in fact is well-written and ingeniously constructed, full of traps for unsuspectingly narrow readers like Francine Prose, and here is how Tartt did it.
I would love to read that. I have read her Secret History and liked it but I'm not tempted by this one. I'm not going to debate what you wrote with you, I'm not equipped to enter such a conversation. I would give my opinion while you'd prove your point. However, I have a question for you: what do you think of the Oulipo movement?
I have not read The Goldfinch either. I suppose that an author is in trouble right out of the gate if he or she is compared to Dickens. What if Tart is half as good as Dickens? I think that would be really, really good. Okay, I've read one of Prose's novels and I thought it was one of the worst pieces of [redacted] I've ever read in my life.
Comparative reviewing is never good, but it's definitely not Tartt's fault if other reviewers are foolishly opting for bad comparisons. And given what I know about Prose's terrible writing, I take her words with many grains of salt However valid or invalid the critic's complaints, shouldn't anyone named Prose have to recuse herself from assessing anybody else's prose? I read The Secret History and thought it was terrible. For years I took comfort in the belief that Tartt was a one hit wonder who didn't write anything else, then she did. That people are hailing her as a great writer is beyond me.
I was very happy to see Prose's review, finally. While I would love to hear what you have to say about Tartt's book, I would never suggest you actually read one. AR T , good point about how it's unfair to find fault with the writing style of Tartt's rookie narrator. Kipling and Dickens to name just two also adapted the level of their writing to match the consciousness of their narrators, and yet somehow they still managed to be impressive. For example, from the tamer Esther sections of Bleak House: She partly drew aside the curtain of the long, low garret window and called our attention to a number of bird-cages hanging there, some containing several birds.
There were larks, linnets, and goldfinches--I should think at least twenty. When my judgment should be given. They die in prison, though. Their lives, poor silly things, are so short in comparison with Chancery proceedings that, one by one, the whole collection has died over and over again. I doubt, do you know, whether one of these, though they are all young, will live to be free! Ve-ry mortifying, is it not?
- 12X12 Example 7.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?;
- Two Islands in the Tarn;
You have hit upon an important issue: Which reviewer s will we turn to for advice about books? After all, isn't that a problem? We cannot read everything, so we must make our choices based upon whatever friends, pundits, bloggers, reviewers, and critics say. How, though, can we trust those friends, pundits, bloggers, reviewers, and critics? You answer that question, and you will win the profuse gratitude of everyone. And here is another significant issue: Isn't it odd the ways in which publishers and marketing drive book sales -- even of books that might otherwise not ever be noticed?
At the same time, wonderful books -- like trees falling the forest without anyone around to witness the event -- simply do not really exist for too many people. This leads to one of my opinions about making reading choices: I tend to read nothing that has been published recently, but I wait instead for a book to be at least a generation old before making the move to read it.
By then, if the book is worthwhile, it might still be around. Finally, consider these as examples: Will anyone be reading Dan Brown's books in the years ? What about Tartt'sThe Goldfinch? What about Prose's books? I had never heard about Donna Tartt until last week when I read a review of the French traduction of The Goldfinch in some newspaper. In fact, it was so far from a literary critic as to mainly describe the author's look, haircut and dress. There was the Dickensian reference too but nothing about style, except that she writes on notebooks no computer until the last corrections, so original with a ballpen, and also that, in 21th century, with internet and so on, she took 11 years to write her novel.
Here in France, books reviews are slightly more interesting in general, and cope with style and writing process — even if most of the time they only give you an idea of the contents — and it's difficult to find reviewers you can trust. I rather follow some booksellers' advices, some friends' too and I trust some editors because of their catalogue.
But too often, you are misled by people who have no idea about style, or who take originality for style the narrative intermingled with inner voice, the deconstruction of the narration, etc. Maybe it's just that it's very difficult to talk about style after all. I don't really follow the recent publications here, being more interested in old books from all parts of the world, but I wonder if it isn't an effect of creative writing programs something we find very strange in this side of the Atlantic that many books are written in such similar ways that it's no more interesting to discuss about their style.
If I were wise, I would let these comments stand as they are, but if I were wise I would not have written this piece in the first place. Regardless, thanks for the useful and varied views. So just a few points. Francine Prose stakes out a position in which the highest achievement in fiction is something that is deeply worked at a sentence level. Every word is the right word.
And she is usually placed in that kind of tradition. Biblibio stands out as an exception — what did you read? I let Amazon pick a random page of Goldengrove for me and got p. Or maybe she would have heard the cloud singing Otis Redding. And now she was gone, and here was Aaron with the dull little sister, and all she could see was a sheep.
His ice cream hand clutched the steering wheel. Butter pecan trickled between his fingers. The Goldfinch , p. My own home phone had been disconnected. As soon as I could decently slip away from breakfast and my untouched plate, I went back to the telephone in the family room, with Irenka flustering around and running the vacuum and dusting the bric-a-brac all around me, and Kitsey across the room on the computer, determined not to even look at me.
Maybe that banana, plain and meaningless by itself, is used to create signal a web of links between subtly related scenes. She cannot see what those who love The Goldfinch are seeing. My basic assumption is that whatever they are seeing is there By the way, to anyone who has read The Goldfinch : how this kid write pages that sound so much like a novel? Brian — half as good as Dickens, very funny. Who will we turn to for advice? And you do not really find it odd that publishers use marketing to sell the books they publish, do you? What could be less odd. Myers about Francine Prose.
But yeah, sure , why not? I completely reject the idea that the sameness of much fiction in the U. In any given place and times most novels stories, poems, plays are written in similar ways. Sameness is the ordinary and unceasing condition of literature. All of those similar books are eventually filtered away and replaced by new books that are all in the same in a different way. Emma - I barely know anything about Oulipo.
I read almost all of Italo Calvino's books without knowing there was such a thing. I have also read Zazie on the Metro. What is the relevance of this question, I wonder? Who would call their kid Theodicy? Years ago, I used to help run a quiz league, and set questions, and one of my questions was "What is 'Theodicy'? But I digress. From the excerpt you give from Tartt's novel, I see nothing at all to object to. But it's admittedly only a brief excerpt. I'll have a longer browse. I generally find that a broewse for about ten or so minutes gives you a fair idea of the quality of the prose.
If the writing isspecially bad, a few seconds is generally enough. I take it that Tartt herself has not compared her writing to Dickens'. If that is the case, it's a tad unfair to criticise her writing for not being Dickensian. However, it's fair enough having a go at those who have described her writing as "Dickensian" without telling us just what it is they mean by the term. Well, in the world of the novel the kid's name is merely Theo Decker. In our world, though, that name is a little bit suspicious.
The novel ends with a thirteen page "sermon," as Prose calls it, on the problem of evil. This is an ancient literary technique called "rubbing it in.
But this is part of her question to the people who "love" the novel - what exactly are you seeing in this book? Tartt's prose seems okay in fragments. Nothing too special, though. I was tempted to put up a passage from p. Too cruel to Prose, really. There's a strong current in American writing nowadays to focus on the sentence, to write one beautiful sentence after another, day by day, until you have enough sentences to fill the pages of something book length.
Which is fine and all of that, but a novel is more than beautiful prose. A novel is little or maybe nothing without ideas to be expressed. Better novels also include things like metaphor, symbolism, themes and counterthemes, formal patterning, etc. I just don't get the modern American obsession with the sentence, unless I cautiously--or maybe incautiously--advance it's to hide a lack of real ideas, a something to be written about.
I donno. I like Prose, I like her writing about writing, and I like a lot of her writing. Beat Stan cnt'd : Anyway, you can't leave the house. Stan Smith : Francine, this happens every time! First you pull out a gun and threaten to shoot me. Then I pull out my gun.
Eventually, your arm gets tired, you leave, and we have passionate "nobody-got-shot" sex. Old Chinese Guy: "The dragon awakens! The prophecy has been fulfilled! Terry: Looking forward to your party tonight. Stan: It'll scare you straight! Terry: Dryly Every year Stan grabs the gun; various reactions of gasping and other comments from the crowd Bystander: "Why do we have those again?
I don't mean to be that guy , I'm happy here Stan : "That's the 2nd time my life has been saved by hip-hop. Hayley appears holding bloody pickaxe, wearing torn clothing and a shackle on her ankle Stan: gasp You escaped the pit of no return?! How'd you get past my- Hayley: They're all dead, Dad. Stan: Even the younglings? Hayley: I even made a wallet from their hides. Hayley: Hello father! Wondering how I escaped from the basement? Stan: No, not really.
Hayley: Oh. Klaus : You're really gonna kill five people over twenty dollars?! Roger : Are you really asking that to the guy who, just last week, killed six people over nineteen dollars? You two were made for each other! Steve : [To the cat that has been viciously attacking him all episode, and has now appeared to die in his arms] Poor Simon You look so peaceful; almost as if you're sleeping Turn's out I'm the richest guy in the world because I have an adoring wife and a loving family!
I'd like to donate some of my immense riches. What's that? Children are still starving in Africa because wife love is worthless to you? What an odd policy! Hold on. Do you accept payment in the form of adventure? I'd like to pay my son's tuition, but I don't have any money, but my husband is rich in adventure! Yes, can I buy a Chateau with my son's love?
Stan : Yes! We all know the bit! Let's get back at 'em by dating each other. Beat Wait a minute Stan: You're nothing but a worthless sack of fatass! Roger: gasps in horror Stan: You're lazy, you're a chubbo, you lie, you cheat, you eat all our food, you're a drunk, you never wash your wigs, but you strut around like you're Mary Queen of Scots, Brangelina, and Jesus all rolled into one.
Well, you're not! You're a big fat nothing! Francine : [muttering] Goddamn Rube Goldberg I was depending on that reward money! I can't go back to work, I left a deuce on my desk! Avery : My only regret is that I didn't get to jump through this pane of break-away glass! Avery pulls out his gun and shoots the glass a few times, then manages to jump through it. Francine : Are you sure about all this? I brought them Raven-Symone! Saw her on a Philadephia playground and knew she was a star, snatched her right up! Six months later, her parents saw her on TV and realized she was still alive So, you ask, am I sure about this?
I dunno. Roger: responding to an odd statement made by Francine Well, that was about as obvious as the setup for the sequel at the end of Batman Begins. Stan: What are you talking about? Roger: You know, when Inspector Gordon gives him that Joker playing card?
Stan: Well, what does that have to do with Francine? Roger: What about her? Stan: You sounded like you were going to say something important about Francine. Roger: Ummm Nope, don't think so. Stan: Oh Greg : Well, another successful trip to Brad's Cactus Shack! Terry : Can you believe they were giving away razor blades? Greg : I'll just turn on our new lemon juice waterfall! Stan proceeds to hit the cacti, bounce off of the razor blade pile and then land in the lemon juice fountain.
Terry: Why are we always holding hands? Greg: How else will everyone know we're a gay couple? Teacher : [pointing to "Tenure" written on board] And that's why it's virtually impossible for me to get fired, no matter what I do. Hayley: You're such a fascist! Stan: Peacepusher! Hayley: Murder!
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Stan: Hermaphrodite! Hayley: Gun toting maniac! Stan: Beatnik! Hayley: Warmonger! Stan: Chupacabra! Francine : You're overreacting Bullock : They're using [our torture budget] to teach inner city kids sobbing to read! Mark and I would love for you to live with us! Guard : Well, I can't leave the museum, Sheila, they need me! Lady : But these are your golden years!
You should be enjoying life with your family! Guard : laughs I never stopped enjoying it Sheila Roger : The second rule you can read on my website.
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