I just finished reading The Goldfinch, about 6 years after all the hooplah over The Goldfinch. That’s about right on time for me these days. It was long and she may have used every word in the English language to write it. It was the best of times it was the worst of times.
I don’t know what I think. Whenever I read a book like this, assuming it will be a slam dunk like her masterpiece The Secret History, I’m confused. Due to her out of the gate home run with The Secret History, I really expected, given its Pulitzer designation, that Goldfinch was going to be a triple sow cow, three pointer, slam dunk. As with any head scratching moment, I took to Google. I needed some kind of validation or explanation of why I felt so bemused by this book.
The revelation came in the form of a Vanity Fair article echoing the mishish pshaws of the internationally elite word wardens. If ever there is a group I strive to be in direct opposition to, it’s this one. Among the naysayers were the New Yorker, The New York Book Review and the Paris Review. These are the secret Ivy league club of clubs of word Nazis. They didn’t like it and lamented the ‘dumbing down’ of real literature and real readers the world over.
Naturally, I’ve been musing on my own disappointed feelings over the book. It was long and often some of the beautiful sentences rambled into baffling incoherence, and not poetically either. I guess it was Dickensian but really more 21st century story telling where story is king. And if we’re going to go in that direction then maybe the story should have been a little better.
Still it was beautiful and I liked how it finally came together at the end even if it was one more of the overwritten, kinda never ending passages, that I was ready to be done reading. I wish all that had happened sooner because there was so much great about the book.
This post though is about the easy dismissal by the noted intellectuals, those we hold in esteem and fear, to the book and my part in buying into their thinking. I did agree with them inherently or maybe Pavlovian as a result of years of critically reading the classics in school. I’ve been trained to think like the word snobs while at the same time standing no chance in hell of being invited in among them.
I don’t want to be in the same school of thought as this gang but this time I am unfortunately. I don’t like people who hold language as a prisoner to damn and shame others as a means of sport and superiority, maintaining the centuries old tradition of elitism. They laugh at adults reading Harry Potter and the likes of King as if entertainment was a four letter word and the only way for a patron to truly understand an artistic genre is to suffer through it. Believe me I suffered enough Hemmingway and Basquiat to tell you just because it’s hard to enjoy doesn’t mean it’s elevated.
What I can say is that she wrote a book I’m still thinking about. It was not an easy book to read and that says something because it was a hit. If the idea of reading such a book means we are a dumbed down people then call me Huckleberry. I say that given the size and ambition and sheer lingual feat of the book their snobbery is the dying cry of an obsolete oligarchy floundering to a sordid and needed death.
Even if I kind of agree with them this time.