Transcribed from Marginalia: The Goldfinch

A collection of thoughts after re-reading The Goldfinch (transcribed from marginalia):

Theo’s mother dies on April 10th. April 10th is the 100th day of the year.

I think Donna Tartt hides herself in her male characters.

“I was very taken with the idea that a person might notice in passing some bewitching stranger and remember her for the rest of his life.”

This novel is peppered with references to The Waste Land — hyacinths, chess, grief in April.

Boris (or his Arabic alias Badr) is the moon — waxing and waning in and out of Theo’s fate.

There’s a certain kind of beauty in the stark desert light of Vegas.

Dickens is everywhere too (need to read more Dickens so I don’t miss it. Fuck.).

“Idolatry! Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only – if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things – beautiful things – that they connect you to some larger beauty?”

Francis is still the same. An aesthetic snob surrounded by Greek Vases.

Just as this novel is permeated with art, it’s also littered with literature (Walden! Oz! Franny and Zooey!)

What is worse — the loss of life, or the loss of art (for art is how one becomes immortal)?

Time as a proper noun. A being. An entity.

Harry Potter looking into The Mirror of Erised: “I saw her reflection behind me, in the mirror. I was speechless. Somehow I knew I wasn’t allowed to turn around—it was against the rules, whatever the rules of the place were—but we could see each other, our eyes could meet in the mirror, and she was just as glad to see me as I was to see her. She was herself. An embodied presence. There was psychic reality to her, there was depth and information. She was between me and whatever place she had stepped from, what landscape beyond. And it was all about the moment when our eyes touched in the glass, surprise and amusement, her beautiful blue eyes with the dark rings around the irises, pale blue eyes with a lot of light in them: hello! Fondness, intelligence, sadness, humor. There was motion and stillness, stillness and modulation, and all the charge and magic of a great painting. Ten seconds, eternity. It was all a circle back to her. You could grasp it in an instant, you could live in it forever: she existed only in the mirror, inside the space of the frame, and though she wasn’t alive, not exactly, she wasn’t dead either because she wasn’t yet born, and yet never not born—as somehow, oddly, neither was I. And I knew that she could tell me anything I wanted to know (life, death, past, future) even though it was already there, in her smile, the answer to all questions” (Fuck literary fiction and highbrow literature — Theo and Harry Potter mirror one another. Orphans, obsession with mother, glasses, not to mention Boris’ constant reminder of the connection through his nickname ‘Potter’, and other overt mention of the series (“No one had called me Potter in years but her soft voice had brought to mind a forgotten word from those old books, the language of snakes and dark wizards: Parseltongue.”))

Are people meant to be possessions? To have? To hold? Is art meant to be possessed?

Materialism isn’t selfishness, it’s connection — a longing for beauty incarnate.

Theo is the Goldfinch — alone, contextless, but still tied to the fate of others.


One thought on “Transcribed from Marginalia: The Goldfinch

  1. Speaking of Dickens; I’m trying to get peoples guesses as to what Dickens novel Smith will use the first sentence of as a starting point for “Spring”. She has used A Tale of two cities and A Christmas Carol so far. And I just read Public Library where she riffs on Bleak house (which would have been my guess/hope for Spring) so the chances feel somewhat reduced. Do you have a guess?


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