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The Secret History, Donna Tartt

Alfred A. Knopf, September 5, 1992

Here is my secret. But remember, it wasn’t my fault. It’s all on her. She’s the one who gets us all hooked like junkies, stringing us out, stringing us out, and then when it’s over, she leaves us high and dry for another decade or more. Another day, nothing. Another year, nothing. Same as it ever was. Not a peep. Google “Donna Tartt” hoping that today will be the breakthrough. Even if only a rumor. Throw us a bone, Knopf, fanboys, anyone?

Searching for word about Tartt’s next novel, you get nowhere. A mini-breakthrough comes in 2008 when word hits that Little, Brown and Company will publish Tartt’s third. Maybe Knopf was just like the rest of us: couldn’t stand the wait any longer.

The search consumes you. Like when you were diving into the mystery of The Secret History and devoured it (or were devoured by it), as if her words were nourishment and you were starving and couldn’t gobble up the scraps fast enough. There was nothing more important than turning to the next page.

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 coming of age and you thought of Huck or Scout in the grand traditions.

What happens next? No way to read fast enough in order to turn the pages as quickly as you’d like.

Soon you will be late. They will not believe you that it was not your fault. But it is the truth. It’s all on her.

But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive.

Put it down, put it down! So says the voice in your head. Impossible. It’s useless. You’re 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 over what comes next.

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 real world. As if anything could be more real than your current intoxication and devotion to this novel.

When you do come back (quickly, quickly), it’s more of the same. Damn you, Donna Tartt! Why won’t you leave me be? It’s not only the suspense of the plot. Even the pacing of the sentences leave you hard pressed to finish a page let alone a chapter without becoming addicted and needing more. No, plot alone couldn’t cast a spell like that. It’s that rare treasure of a book when a page turner is infused with beautiful phrasing and style that you know the book is undoubtedly going to 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 the experience.

‘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.’

‘Which is?’

‘To live without thinking.’

You can’t wait to tell friends. 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 that makes you begin to think deeply if not fondly about them all.

The fix. Another Google search. You need the fix. What are the latest rumors? Any word on her next release? Anything? Anything?!