Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Goldfinch

The Public:
“I just finished The Goldfinch and I feel like I've been in a flop house with a junkie for 12 days....made me feel dirty and irritated at the depravity of the characters. So, I guess it was a good read because I was yelling at Theo telling him to get his act together
Very depressing. I was glad when I finally closed the book. Very over rated I thought.
The Goldfinch was the saddest, most depressing book I have ever read. I mainly read for pleasure and entertainment but this book had neither. The writer went way overboard on the drug scenes and it makes me wonder about her knowledge of such a lifestyle.

Although well written, one of the most depressing books I have ever read. I couldn't wait for it to end!”
The Critics:         
NYTimes; Stephen King Pulitzer Prize for Fiction “The Goldfinch” is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind. I read it with that mixture of terror and excitement I feel watching a pitcher carry a no-hitter into the late innings. You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but in the case of “The Goldfinch,” they never do. Like the best of Dickens (I will not be the last to make this comparison), the novel turns on mere happenstance\
While the plot of “The Goldfinch” keeps the reader on his toes with constant surprises, what makes the novel unique is Theo’s narrative voice. Permanently damaged and scarred by the explosion and the death of his mother, the voice of the traumatized youth and the cynical, self-involved adult is ingenuous and startling  - Washington Times

In April it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the judges of which praised it as “a book that stimulates the mind and touches the heart.”

Its tone, language, and story belong in children’s literature,” wrote critic James Wood, in The New Yorker. He found a book stuffed with relentless, far-fetched plotting; cloying stock characters; and an overwrought message tacked on at the end as a plea for seriousness. “Tartt’s consoling message, blared in the book’s final pages, is that what will survive of us is great art, but this seems an anxious compensation, as if Tartt were unconsciously acknowledging that the 2013 ‘Goldfinch’ might not survive the way the 1654 ‘Goldfinch’ has.” Days after she was awarded the Pulitzer, Wood told Vanity Fair, “I think that the rapture with which this novel has been received is further proof of the infantilization of our literary culture: a world in which adults go around reading Harry Potter.”

 In The New York Review of Books, novelist and critic Francine Prose wrote that, for all the frequent descriptions of the book as “Dickensian,” Tartt demonstrates little of Dickens’s remarkable powers of description and graceful language. She culled both what she considered lazy clichés (“Theo’s high school friend Tom’s cigarette is ‘only the tip of the iceberg.’ … The bomb site is a ‘madhouse’ ”) and passages that were “bombastic, overwritten, marred by baffling turns of phrase.” “Reading The Goldfinch,” Prose concluded, “I found myself wondering, ‘Doesn’t anyone care how something is written anymore?’ ” Across the pond, the highly regarded London Review of Books likened it to a “children’s book” for adults. London’s Sunday Times concluded that “no amount of straining for high-flown uplift can disguise the fact that The Goldfinch is a turkey.”

 “A book like The Goldfinch doesn’t undo any clichés—it deals in them,” says Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, perhaps the most prestigious literary journal in America. “It coats everything in a cozy patina of ‘literary’ gentility.” Who cares that Kakutani or King gave it the stamp of approval: “Nowadays, even The New York Times Book Review is afraid to say when a popular book is crap,” Stein says.
No novel gets uniformly enthusiastic reviews, but the polarized responses to The Goldfinch lead to the long-debated questions: What makes a work literature, and who gets to decide?

From Troutbirder
Yes. Well. There’s the challenge. Here in “flyover country” we know garbage when we see it and smell it.  Its one thing, as Dickens did,  to expose the cruel underside  of society but conscience and morality in his novels offered redemption.  This piece of garbage has none of that.  For the author to propose a great work of art from the distant past as the beacon of hope, considering the low state of much of “modern art” today is silly at best and psycho-pop drivel at its worst.  This book is not Dickensian.  It’s a comic book for slumming adults. And I read it to the end hoping for something better.  Stubborn me…..




  1. I haven't read it, but now I think for SURE I'll skip it. Thanks for the review and the controversy surrounding the book, TB.

  2. Don't know if I would have stuck it out, but I have with other books. I am slow, still working on Things With Feathers.

  3. Congratulations for sticking it out. I couldn't. I bought it on reviews and the Pulitzer Prize but found it a true labor to read. Her description down to the most minute detail wore me out. Maybe it picked up later but I didn't stick around to find out. From what you said, I made a wise choice to abandon it.

  4. I love how you included the critic's mixed reaction and your personal feelings for this controversial novel. Like you, I had mixed feelings but kept reading to the end. I feel more positive about this book six months later. The narrative holds onto me and makes me think. What made it Dickensian in feel was the length, many well developed characters, a hero facing the evils of the world and the coming of age story arc. It was a good book but might have been a great one with more editing.

  5. I always say it's a good book if you get "caught up" in it, but if it makes me angry or depressed--who needs it! I can get enough of those emotions going out to the garden and seeing what the slugs/beetles/earwigs are up to-ha ha!
    Have a wonderful Holiday weekend!

  6. I usually hate a book that I force myself to read to the miserable end. I wont read this one for sure:(

  7. Thanks for the review, don't think I need to read it.

  8. Amazing how very different reviews of this book have been. Although you and I generally agree on literature, we are far apart on this one. I loved every page and thought it truly deserving of the Pulitzer.

    What I ask of a good book is for it to hold my interest and give me some surprising twists and this one surely did. I'm sorry you found it garbage. I found it delicious.

  9. Like you, I hated the book. I never managed to finish it. In my retirement, I work as a substance abuse counselor as part of my ministry... the horror stories cannot be exaggerated... just when you think you've heard it all, someone comes in and tops that one.
    I figured I heard enough, could not take anymore. Picked up a "junk" book to detox on! Ya know, those cheap little town dumb murder stories where most of the people are nice... just one bad apple, and they catch 'em. No grisly murders, gory details... just somebody finds a body and the local town busy body or some such noseys around and saves some innocent person from being blamed.

    Sometimes the brain needs a break from the gory and hateful, well written or not.

    Good review.

  10. Geez, Troutbirder. Tell us how you really feel! Seriously, I have it on my Kindle so will give it a try at some point. I found the Luminaries very difficult to get through - and haven't yet. Now, I'm happily stuck in 18th century Scotland - re-reading Outlander. Loving it. Great summer read.

  11. This sounds like a few books I've read. I didn't like Malachy McCourt's Angela's ashes.

  12. I have considered reading this, but after reading the reviews have held off....and now that I have read your review, I will skip it altogether. Like you, I read for pleasure. Life is hard enough without getting depressed from reading a book.

  13. I thought it was way overrated, too. The drug scenes were a real turnoff.

  14. Thanks for the review. I will skip this book. How do these books get so much press?

  15. Interesting. Now I will read it. I had dismissed it as just one more book that because it was a best seller I would hate it. I figure it must have something redeeming about it if you made it to the end and then you took the time to write a review about it. I'll let you know. :)

  16. I have always thought critics were in a league of their own. I seldom agree with what they say. I admire you for sticking with it on this one.

  17. I read this a while back. I liked the parts about the art, and about the antiquities shop. I didn't like the drugging and slumming parts. I didn't think it was Pulitzer material. If any of Tartt's books deserved an award, it was The Secret History, which is one of my favorite books of all time. Also, the last 100 pages or so of the Goldfinch could've been chopped. They were so wordy.

  18. I like your review, but I probably won't read it either! lol

  19. Hi There, Just stopping by to say "Happy 4th of July".... Hope you have an incredible weekend whether you are traveling, with family or friends --or like us, just enjoying being home! We hope to grill a couple of steaks tomorrow. Our weather here is awesome right now...God Bless American --and God Bless YOU.

    WELL--don't think I'll EVER read that book.. GADS!


  20. Good review and entertaining collection of comments. I used to finish every book I started. No more. If it doesn't inspire, entertain or educate I delete from my Kindle or take it back to the library. Not for me fiction focused solely on the perverse, cruel, evil side of life.

  21. I want to recommend a book my good friend sent me:

    Derek B. Miller

    "Miller join the ranks of Stieg Larsson,Henning Mankell,and Jo Nesbo,the holy trinity of Scandinavian crime novelists. from Booklist
    The hero is an 82 year old watch repairman who moves to Norway to live with his grandaughter. I just loved it!

    I thought the book you reviewed was OK but needed an editor!

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  22. Sorry I missed your review and saved myself from spending money on this book. It was horrible! Like you, I kept reading, hoping that it would get better. It never did. Horrible read.