Monday, May 12, 2014

Reflecting on Reading

The Goldfinch (1654), by Carel Fabritius
Some books are beyond description. They start out with reality and simplicity. They are clearly a slice of life that you can appreciate. Then as you go along you realize you have been trapped, pulled into a web of wonder and fear, hope and desolation. In short, words have done their job.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction (as well as shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle and the Amazon Book of the Year.) It centers around a terrorist bombing, a young boy caught in the middle of it and a painting of a captured goldfinch, the painting here. It follows the boy, Theo Decker, over the next 12 years in a series of events and stories that keep you engaged and entranced. That is all I will say about the contents. If you are planning on reading it- do not, repeat DO NOT read the Wikipedia article on it.

It is, though, a book that celebrates the place of art in life and even in society. It is a celebration of the power of all kinds of artistic endeavors from the centerpiece painting to working with antique furniture and finally, the power of words. Books. Literature.

As a reader I was bowled over by the ease of the book but the incredible depth that each page brought to light. I would read past a phrase that was simple and yet wove a sense of place and person. I was carried along on waves of words crashing over me. Never a tsunami, but more like the consistent and refreshing presence of the tide at the shore. But then it would get roiled by the events, but never submerge you.

As a writer I was in awe- deep, unending awe of her imagination that came up with this incredible story and its never-ending detail, the ability to make it readable and her understanding of the human condition. That of course is a pretty good summary of all great literature. Donna Tartt does not come in second to any of the greats before her.

As an addiction counselor I was even more amazed by her ability to put into words the mind of an addict. She takes us into the harrowing place where life is at its rawest. You may not understand the actions of addicts any more clearly than before, but you will see the incredible way that alcoholics and addicts make sense to themselves.

This is a book of hope and life in the midst of what often looks hopeless and meaningless. It is about the power of art to bring redemption even when you don't know that this is what you are looking for.

It is a big book- 700+ pages. It is an even bigger book of ideas and character and writing. It is remarkable!

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