Skip to main content

Donna Tartt: Quotey and Less Intimidating Than Expected

Donna Tartt came to Chicago.

For those unaware, Donna Tartt wrote The Secret History and The Goldfinch (and also a third book that no one really talks about). She also has author pictures that cause hardened warriors to quake in their spike-tipped boots.


Better known amongst her kindred as "Soul Reaper."

I liked The Goldfinch. And I like author events. And Donna Tartt looked so impressively terrifying that I had a whole plan of going up to the author table and being AS CHEERFUL AS I COULD POSSIBLY BE to see what happened.

So I went to Northwestern's Thorne Auditorium and sat in a seat that yielded this blurry picture (Tartt is, of course, on the right):



The audience was mostly made up of gay men and older women. So I distrust my own reactions to the program, because maybe everyone aside from my friend Jeff and myself was fascinated by the talk and thought some very probing questions were put to Ms. Tartt. What seemed to happen, though, was the following:

Moderator: "You're so awesome at everything. How do you do that?"

Tartt: *talks for five minutes, pausing a lot. Nothing is really said*

Jeff captured this moment, unbeknownst to me, which sums things up pretty accurately:



Here's the thing — I don't expect all authors to be engaging and awesome in person. That's not their main thing. Their main thing is sitting alone in a room and writing shit down. Which people then read and get excited about, or hate, or go 'meh' over. To also have high expectations of their interpersonal skills seems to be asking a bit much. The main thing I was disappointed in, actually, was that Ms. Tartt seemed shy up there. Really? Shy? Do I have to show you another one of your author portraits?


Like we could do anything to you. Look how pointy your shoulders are.

What I remember about the talk, aside from the incessant fawning, was her quoting authors. Like a lot. To the point where I started writing them down. Woolf, Orwell, Nabokov, Flaubert and Yeats. At least. At some moment she mentioned Bret Easton Ellis, whom she is buds with (a fact which the internet has trained me to react to with '...ugh').

Question time prompted a fierce battle between myself and the man handing out the mic to people. For he was being directed by the girl across the aisle, and WOULD NOT JUST GIVE ME THE MIC until said girl saw my hand raised. People in a three row circumference were invested in the outcome of this conflict until persistence won and I stood up, mic in hand, apparently so I could be a shit to Donna Tartt.

I don't think she actually took it that way. I don't think. But I started by saying how fantastic Boris is as a character. And then — she had read aloud a quote from like 20 pages from the end of the book which talks about WHY The Goldfinch is an amazing painting — I said that THAT quote had made me go "Oh, I get it now" regarding a good deal of the preceding pages, and why did she put it at the end rather than earlier? Essentially I meant "You put this in the wrong place and this would have been a better book if you'd moved it."

She gave a very calm response, which pretty much boiled down to "I have thought this through and it's in the right place, thank you very much, did you work on a book for ten years no I didn't think so you sit yourself back down now."

Jeff and I then got in line for the signing. You might know that I ask authors to write a favorite word in the book I have them sign. Alison Bechdel wrote 'Ranunculus.' Emma Donoghue wrote "bejewelled." Donna Tartt, after seeming confused and not in the least bit amused, wrote the following:


I'M SO GLAD WORDS ARE YOUR M√ČTIER

So the event was all a little anticlimactic. I mostly blame the moderator for her sycophancy (ALSO YOU, AUDIENCE), but I will say I don't expect any of this to make me enjoy Tartt's books any less — which is generally the fear with meeting an author whose work you like. I bought The Secret History from the sellers working the event, and I am muy excited to start it.

Afterwards, Jeff, my beyond-charming friend who works in publishing:


you should all meet Jeff

and I walked over by Water Tower, which if you live in Chicago you tend to avoid, as it's the site of Overpriced Everything. But there's also a Ghirardelli there and they had a milkshake called the Nob Hill Chill, and this needed to be ordered. So the evening ended with this and I now have nothing but good feelings for Donna Tartt:



Well done, milkshake.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Harry Potter 2013 Readalong Signup Post of Amazingness and Jollity

Okay, people. Here it is. Where you sign up to read the entire Harry Potter series (or to reminisce fondly), starting January 2013, assuming we all survive the Mayan apocalypse. I don't think I'm even going to get to Tina and Bette's reunion on The L Word until after Christmas, so here's hopin'.


You guys know how this works. Sign up if you want to. If you're new to the blog, know that we are mostly not going to take this seriously. And when we do take it seriously, it's going to be all Monty Python quotes when we disagree on something like the other person's opinion on Draco Malfoy. So be prepared for your parents being likened to hamsters.

If you want to write lengthy, heartfelt essays, that is SWELL. But this is maybe not the readalong for you. It's gonna be more posts with this sort of thing:


We're starting Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone January 4th. Posts will be on Fridays. The first post will be some sort of hilarious/awesome que…

How to Build a Girl Introductory Post, which is full of wonderful things you probably want to read

Acclaimed (in England mostly) lady Caitlin Moran has a novel coming out. A NOVEL. Where before she has primarily stuck to essays. Curious as we obviously were about this, I and a group of bloggers are having a READALONG of said novel, probably rife with spoilers (maybe they don't really matter for this book, though, so you should totally still read my posts). This is all hosted/cared for/lovingly nursed to health by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) because she has a lovely fancy job at an actual bookshop (Odyssey Books, where you can in fact pre-order this book and then feel delightful about yourself for helping an independent store). Emily and I have negotiated the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine and wandered the Javits Center together. Would that I could drink with her more often than I have.


INTRODUCTION-wise (I might've tipped back a little something this evening, thus the constant asides), I am Alice. I enjoy the Pleistocene era of megafauna and drinking Shirley Templ…

A synonym for 'Neanderthal' is 'boorish,' which just isn't very nice

So this article came out, which isn't really groundbreaking at all, but it happens to have been published the day after I watched part of the NOVA special "Becoming Human," so it's been on my brain anyway.

I was checking out a book a while ago called Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans, and it was all "Oh dude, our ancestors probably didn't even LOOK at Neanderthals. No way. 'Cause they would've been like, RIDICULOUSLY ugly."

This book was published in 2010. And what came out this year? DNA Shows Humans Found Non-Humans Irresistible

That's right. Your lady ancestor, at some point, sidled up to a Neanderthal gentleman and said "Hey. How's it goin'?


Because all non-Africans ('cause the Africans stayed put instead of traipsing around becoming the Don Juans of prehistoric Europe) have 1-4% Neanderthal DNA. So the above scenario DEFINITELY happened. Which is disheartening NOT because of my huge Neanderth…