The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. It seems people either love this one or hate it, so I am among the lovers.
But I loved being dropped in a Dickens-like or Dostoyevsky-like plot with plenty of characters to care about and cringe at, and I loved the philosophical moments, earned by both narrator and author.
Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted---? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight towards a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?
You hear the narrator's earnestness here, and also the terrible danger.
If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away?Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement, the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or...is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?
I don't know the answer to these questions,* but 1) I think it's important to ask them and 2) I have known people who had to throw themselves into the bonfire. I don't want to judge them! I want to understand them, and this book helps me with that, and it also comforts me, as I am, while not as wild as this fellow, still not on that path-to-the-norm that leads in the opposite direction. I'm on a meandering path, as I've mentioned before, and I like "the boring part" of It's a Wonderful Life as well as the sometimes cut-from-late-night-television scene of the floor over the swimming pool coming apart, etc. It is a wonderful life, but much harder for people with PTSD or disaster or crappy circumstances. They don't get to fall laughing from a dance floor into a perfectly safe swimming pool when the earth opens up and swallows them.
*Nor do I know why it's "towards" in one spot and "toward" in another. What is the difference between the two? (OK, fine if this the boring part of the blog post.)
Thanks to Wikimedia and the public domain for Jimmy Stewart and Red Kimono on Roof by John Sloan. Thanks to Donna Tartt, Carel Fabritius, Mother Nature,and the Audubon Society for the goldfinch.