Monday, 13 July 2015

Caroline vs. The Goldfinch


I'm sure I'm not alone in seeing The Goldfinch EVERYWHERE right now.  It flooded my social media feeds in the past several months, and I decided I wanted to see what the fuss was about.  And, WOW.  I loved this book.  It's quite long and took me almost the first 100 pages to really get into it, but once I did I couldn't get enough.  It's narrated in an autobiographical style by Theodore Decker, whose mother was killed in an accident in New York when he was just 13, and details how he navigated life after his loss, warts and all.  It's fascinating, heartbreaking, suspenseful...I could go on.  It won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason!  I hadn't heard of Donna Tartt before, but now I'd quite like to read her other novels.

A few poignant phrases:
"A harried, lawyerly father brushed past us, towing his small son by the wrist. 'No, Braden,' I heard him say to the boy, who trotted to keep up, 'you shouldn't think that way, it's more important to have a job you like–'" p.17
"'Have you discussed it with Sergio?' I said. Sergio – seldom in the office, though often in the society pages with people like Donatella Versace – was the multimillionaire owner of my mother's firm; 'discussing things with Sergio' was akin to asking: 'What would Jesus do?'" p.25
"'People die, sure,' my mother was saying. 'But it's so heartbreaking and unnecessary how we lose things. From pure carelessness. Fires, wars. The Parthenon, used as a munitions storehouse. I guess that anything we manage to save from history is a miracle.'" p.34
"Why did I obsess over people like this? Was it normal to fixate on strangers in this particular vivid, fevered way? I didn't think so." p.34
"Mostly I stared out at the pigeons flapping on the window ledge as Andy filled out endless grids in his hiragana workbook, his knee bouncing under the desk as he worked." p.106
"'Yes – Dallas. Uncle Harry and Aunt Tess lived there for a while. There's nothing to do but go to the movies and you can't walk anywhere, people have to drive you. Also they have rattlesnakes, and the death penalty, which I think is primitive and unethical in ninety-eight per cent of cases.'" p.195
"'Don't you have public transit out here?' 'Nope.' 'What do people do?' Xandra cocked her head to the side. 'They drive?' she said, as if I was a retard who'd never heard of cars." p.287
"'Few years ago, we were up north in Canada, in Alberta, this one-street town off the Pouce Coupe River? Dark the whole time, October to March, and fuck-all to do except read and listen to CBC radio.'" p.295
"'You think I beat girls up?' I said. He shrugged. 'She might have deserved it.' 'Um, we don't hit women in America.' He scowled, and spit out an apple seed. 'No. Americans just persecute smaller countries that believe different from them.'" p.311
"Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch's ankle, or think about what a cruel life for a little living creature – fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place." p.378
"Was it wrong, wanting to sleep late with the covers over my head and wander around a peaceful house with old seashells in drawers and wicker baskets of folded upholstery fabric stored under he parlor secretary, sunset falling in drastic coral spokes through the fanlight over the front door?" p.513
"Yet my longing for her was like a bad cold that had hung on for years despite my conviction that I was sure to get over it at any moment." p.577
"Lightly, lightly, I put my hand at her elbow, as I had seen Mr. Barbour do with guests 'of the female persuasion,' and steered her into the hall." p.581
"People gambled and golfed and planted gardens and traded stocks and had sex and bought new cars and practiced yoga and worked and prayed and redecorated their homes and got worked up over the news and fussed over their children and gossiped about their neighbours and pored over restaurant reviews and founded charitable organizations and supported political candidates and attended the U.S. Open and dined and travelled and distanced themselves with all kinds of gadgets and devices, flooding themselves incessantly with information and texts and communication and entertainment from every direction to try to make themselves forget it: here we were, what we were." p.593
"I was so distracted that a man coming fast round the corner whacked straight into me: 'Watch it!'  'Sorry,' I said, shaking myself. Even though the accident had been the other guy's fault – too busy honking and yakking away on his cellphone to look where he was going – several people on the sidewalk had directed their disapproving looks at me." p.731-2
"'Well –' she shook her head – 'the concert scenes. The look of those rehearsal halls. Because, you know –' rubbing her arms – 'it was really, really hard. Practice, practice, practice – six hours a day – my arms would ache from holding the flute up – and, well, I'm sure you've heard plenty of it too, that positive-thinking crap that it's so easy for teachers and physical therapists to dole out – 'oh, you can do it!' 'we believe in you!' – and falling for it and working hard and working harder and hating yourself because you're not working hard enough, thinking it's your fault you're not doing better and working even harder and then – well.'" p.761
"We have art in order not to die from the truth. –Nietzsche" p.797
"And I keep thinking too of the more conventional wisdom: namely, that the pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty has to be wedded to something more meaningful." p.949
"Because, here's the truth: life is a catastrophe. The basic fact of existence – of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do – is catastrophe." p.957
xx, C.

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