Now that Donna Tartt has won the Pulitzer for The Goldfinch, I should probably link to my review of her beautiful novel on Neil Fein’s Magnificent Nose.
A time-honored axiom among screenwriters and novelists is “Chase your character up a tree and throw rocks at him.” Get your character in a lot of trouble. Complicate and multiply his problems. Don’t grant him an easy way down.”
In The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s hefty, Dickensian bildungsroman, the Tartt Corollary to the Trees and Rocks Axiom might be “Chase your character up a tree, throw rocks at him, then vaporize the ground beneath the entire forest.” It makes for painful, but compelling reading.
The target of Tartt’s sadism is thirteen-year-old Theo Decker who, in the first chapter, experiences the worst loss a child can suffer: His adored, artistic mother is killed in a terrorist attack on the Metropolitan Museum. Theo, badly injured himself, tries to help an older man in the rubble, a man he had observed before the explosion exploring the gallery with a girl about Theo’s age. The man gives Theo a ring and an address, and, delirious and dying, instructs Theo to rescue a certain painting from the ruins. Severely concussed, the boy flees the disaster scene with the priceless painting, unwittingly becoming an art thief.
Read the rest here.