After seeing the new trailer for the film version of her latest book, I fell down a bit of a Donna Tartt hole online. I’d missed her Charlie Rose interview, for example, which is interesting; she’s famously press-shy and intensely private.
At the bottom of this Google pit I found this archival piece from Vanity Fair, which heralds her as a grand new voice in fiction. The web version dates it from 1999, but it’s written as though it was published closer to the release date of her first novel, The Secret History, in 1992.
Point being, it’s early on in her laconic career. Tartt, for all her accolades and success, is a slow writer. She’s taken a decade to produce each of the two followups to her splash debut. The Little Friend didn’t appear until 2002; her third and most recent work, The Goldfinch, came 11 years later.
Anyway, here’s the point; it’s in the last paragraphs of the Vanity Fair piece:
We’re driving down a dark back road in Bennington, and I suddenly wonder how fame and wealth will take her. “I’m like Huck Finn,” she says. “I can be perfectly happy on no money at all. Now that I have money, my life has changed not a bit. Everybody’s expecting me to buy a condo, make investments. I don’t care about any of that. I like ephemera—books, clothes. Food. That’s all.” I ask, musingly, if she ever intends to settle down and have a family. She shakes her head firmly. “Je ne vais jamais me marier,” she says.
Suddenly she spots, with delight, a whirling flock of goldfinches. “Look at these goldfinches—do you see?” she cries. “Goldfinches are the greatest little birds, because they build their nests in the spring, a long time after all the other birds do. They’re the last to settle down—they just fly around and they’re happy for a long time, and just sing and play. And only when it’s insanely late in the year, they kind of break down and build their nests. I love goldfinches,” she sighs, huddling tinily in the big car seat. “They’re my favorite bird.”
Yup, we see you, Ms Tartt.