The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Alfred A. Knopf, September 5, 1992
Here is my secret. It was all because of obsession but I ask you to please just remember, it wasn’t my fault. Really, it wasn’t. She’s the one. It’s all Son her. Gets us all hooked on her shit like the junkies we are and then leaves us high and dry. Another day, nothing. Another year, nothing. Same as it ever was. Not a fucking peep. We google “Donna Tartt” hoping that today will be the breakthrough. Even if it’s just a rumor. Throw us a bone, Knopf, fanboys, anyone! For heaven’s sake, anything! Anyone?
Searching for word about Tartt’s next novel, you get nowhere. A mini-breakthrough comes in 2008 when word hits that Little, Brown will publish Tartt’s third. Maybe Knopf was just like the rest of us: couldn’t stand the wait any longer. Damn you, Donna Tartt!
The search consumes you. Like when you were deep into the mystery of The Secret History and you devoured the novel as if you were dying and her words were your nourishment. There could be nothing else more important than turning to the next page. More! More!
I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.
Or like when you became transfixed with a tale of young Harriet growing up and you thought of Huck or Scout in the grand traditions of classic coming of age novels.
What happens next? I am warning you. There is simply no possible way to turn the pages fast enough.
Soon you will be late. They will not believe you that it was not your fault. But it is the truth. It was on her all the way.
But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive.
Put it down says the little birdie in your head. You just have to put it down. Argh! Impossible. It is useless. You are trapped. No. Way. Out. To put it down would only leave you skittish and agitated, obsessing about where you were forced to leave off, obsessing about the pages you had already read, obsessing about what comes next. You could only pretend to leave.
Everything, somehow, fit together; some sly and benevolent Providence was revealing itself by degrees and I felt myself trembling on the brink of a fabulous discovery, as though any morning it was all going to come together–my future, my past, the whole of my life–and I was going to sit up in bed like a thunderbolt and say oh! oh! oh!
You have no choice. Something far less important awaits in the ridiculousness of a place commonly referred to as the real world. As if anything could be more real than your intoxication and devotion to this novel. And to her.
When you do come back (In shorquickly), it’s more of the same. Damn you, Donna Tartt! Damn you! Why won’t you just leave me be! It’s not just the suspense of the plot either although Tartt demonstrates such mastery here that she is even able to construct sentences alone with a mysterious weight that leave you hard pressed to finish a mere page let alone a chapter without being inflicted with a strange and desperate longing for more. But suspense by itself couldn’t cast a spell quite like this. No, it’s that rare treasure of a book when a page turner is infused with such eloquent phrasing that the book is elevated into another stratosphere completely. It will undoubtedly remain with you forever.
In short: I felt my existence was tainted, in some subtle but essential way.
You try to force yourself to slow down, just a bit slower so that you can savor every last morsel.
‘My life, for the most part, has been very stale and colorless. Dead, I mean. The world has always been an empty place to me. I was incapable of enjoying even the simplest things. I felt dead in everything I did.’ He brushed the dirt from his hands. ‘But then it changed,’ he said. ‘The night I killed that man. . . . It was the most important night of my life,’ he said calmly. ‘It enabled me to do what I’ve always wanted most.’
‘To live without thinking.’
Hemingway was known to edit his drafts hundreds of times over. To him, sentences needed to ferment for years before their proper flavor could settle in enough to be trusted. Judging from the length between releases of Tartt’s books and their delicious results, I can only guess how many scratches her pages become riddled with during her process.
You can’t wait to tell your friends. You can’t wait for them to experience it. From the mysterious here-we-go murder that kicks it off all the way through each meticulous, in-depth plunge into character, it is crystal clear you are dealing with an author in complete command of her craft.
Another Google search. You need the fix. What are the latest rumors? Any word on her next release? Anything? Anything?!
Damn you, Donna Tartt! Just what the hell exactly have you done to me?