off the record
Last night, the famously reclusive novelist Donna Tartt made her first and only Brooklyn appearance to support her new book, The Goldfinch, at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope.
The fact that Ms. Tartt elected a 150-year-old Reform synagogue as the venue at which to promote her latest novel is no accident. Beth Elohim is an unusually bookish congregation, with members including Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, Jodi Kantor, Ron Lieber and Jonathan Mahler.
The small, luminous painting after which Donna Tartt’s third novel takes its name, The Goldfinch, is by the Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, a student of Rembrandt. You can go see it in New York if you like, at least until Jan. 19, at the Frick, where it’s included in an exhibition that shared an opening day with Ms. Tartt’s release date. The painting was made in 1654, the same year Fabritius was killed at age 32 due to an explosion at a gunpowder store in Delft, a tragedy that left more than a hundred people dead and is echoed in the stunning set piece that opens Ms. Tartt’s expansive, resonant novel. In an ambiguously dated near-contemporary Manhattan, 13-year-old Theo and his mother, left to depend on each other after his deadbeat father’s departure some months before, are visiting a Dutch Masters exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum when a bomb explodes, killing her and others. Theo escapes the wreckage but first has a dreamlike, otherworldly interaction with an old man who isn’t so lucky, whom Theo had seen wandering the gallery with his striking niece before the blast. About to die, he convinces Theo to take The Goldfinch, a longtime sentimental favorite of Theo’s mother, out of the museum and asks him to deliver a ring to what turns out to be a West Village antiques store.
You’ll need something to remind you of your hometown the next time you’re on a plane. Read More
In her senior year at St. Gallway High School, Blue van Meer fulfills the dreams of all bookish, lonely girls: to get in with the in-crowd, score a hot prom date, land an acceptance from Harvard, wind up as valedictorian and solve the death by hanging of a beloved teacher. Oh, yes–she also uncovers her Read More
Like a verdant interval at Yaddo or a sepulchral black-and-white author photo by Marion Ettlinger, a snazzy book cover by Chip Kidd has distinct cachet in Manhattan literary circles (what’s left of them, anyway). The difference is that Mr. Kidd has managed to maintain an unsnobbish aura, though he works for Knopf, still the poshest Read More
Poe, po’ or Pogrebin? Oh, the sweet, smoky agony of autumn continues, with guys squiring around their new “intellectual” October girlfriends (just wait till January,
fellas, when “intellectual” suddenly morphs into “crazy”) and women wondering when, exactly, it’s time to stop messin’ around with wraps and vests and capes and break out Read More
The Little Friend , by Donna Tartt. Alfred A. Knopf, 555 pages, $26.
Like two other youngish authors, JeffreyEugenidesandJonathan Franzen, who recently tossedmassivevolumes onto the literary playing field after remaining largely silent since the early 90′s, Donna Tartt has her own big cleats to fill. The Secret History , published in 1992, was an international Read More