Notes on The Goldfinch

I'm going to preface this post by admitting that this is basically just a hodgepodge of notes on The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt so that I have something to refer back to before book club in a few weeks. Also, I must admit that some of the below points came to fruition after talking about the book with my husband, who definitely knows his shit (none of these are his thoughts, though, just things we both agreed on). Everything that could be interpreted as a spoiler will be in blocks of italics.

- Initially I was a little daunted by the size of the book, at nearly 800 pages. It in fact, it ended up being a fairly "quick" read for me, taking just shy of two weeks (last summer I would have pounded it out in a week). 
- This book almost made the Trifecta of Literary Merit requirements for me- writing, characters, and plot. Here's why:
- Writing: the writing was superb, despite a few overused metaphors here and there. Her attention to detail and ability to describe a scene are impressive and I never felt bored. The dialogue was natural, the transitions flowed, and the text never felt forced.
- Characters: For the most part I thought the characters were developed well. Theo's father was not, but this was because he really wasn't a direct influence in his son's life, therefore the lack of depth mirrored the actual flatness of his presence. Pippa was not either, which really bothered me. I know she was supposed to be this elusive, mysterious little waif, but the fact that Theo was so enthralled with her and didn't seem to have any substantial reasons for being so made the attraction far-fetched. There needed to be more.
- Plot: Tartt's storytelling abilities are amazing- this was what we call "crafted" (it did take her eleven years, after all, so it better appear this way). I did have a problem with some of the coincidences, though. First of all, Theo's dad dying at the point in which he did was just an easy, lazy way out on Tartt's end. Running into Boris towards the end was also just too coincidental- somehow he just manages to bump into him at the moment he needs to in an area he never frequents? The ending was also a tiny bit problematic for me in Amsterdam. Boris appears just as Theo becomes absolutely frantic over his missing passport? Oh, and with a huge chunk of change that Boris can just take back the United States and use to placate everyone he's wronged without any legal repercussions? There was also some discrepancies in terms of timing. The present must be told in the future, because of the mention of iPods and iPhones in the past story segments, which are supposed to be fourteen years old. Those devices are newer than that! 
- I know some people hate the Vegas section (just read the Amazon reviews!), but I thought it read quickly and was necessary to develop the relationship between Theo and Boris and to demonstrate how directionless Theo's adolescence was.
- Hobie reminds me of Hagrid and I love them both
- I'm glad Popper stuck around. 
- I remember looking at the painting of The Goldfinch before I started reading and thinking how uninspiring it was. But, as I read (including, begrudgingly, the ending pages, which I actually thought was a little bit of a sentimental eye-roll inducing brain-dump on Theo and Tartt's part) I had to admit that that's why art is so awesome- it affects everyone differently. The connection one person has with a creative piece, whether a poem, a painting, a sculpture, or a song, is truly personal and subjective. And the question of whether or not it's acceptable to idolize objects is also an interesting thought to ponder.
- I am such a sucker for a literary Bildungsroman.
- This is an interesting article on the critical reception.
- I do think that this is a literary novel that is actually accessible for "the masses." It moves at a steady clip, can be interpreted at different levels, and is entertaining. I think it's also a book that people feel proud of reading- it's long, a Pulitzer winner, and is about the art world. Someone who maybe reads more James Patterson than Jeffrey Eugenides could get through this and feel proud of themselves while discussing it at a cocktail party. I think that's a good thing.

I definitely recommend it! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up below!

1. Summer is almost over- 25 days. I know that most adults don't get summer, which sucks, but we are all in charge of what career we choose. This year is ESPECIALLY hard for me, since I'll be leaving Sawyer at daycare. I will have been able to spend almost four months with him, which beats the hell out of the standard six week maternity leave, but still. We're pretty attached. Necessary evils suck.

2. Our neighbor abandoned this stuffed gorilla on the sidewalk. I'm concerned for Boris (obviously this name was taken from The Goldfinch). Last night he had to endure the horrible Southern California elements (read: sprinklers) and is starting to look a little ragged. I may need to call animal control.

3. I need fun, fast-paced new running songs. Suggestions? No country, please. And yes, I already downloaded "Fancy."

4. Whenever I post I always have it in the back of my mind that students may be reading. I've also Facebook-friended a few new people from work, so I guess I'm feeling more and more... exposed. Because somehow, despite putting my thoughts and opinions up on the internet, I didn't before? Nothing is really changing, I'm just a tiny bit more guarded.

5. If you have a few minutes and want a good laugh, read the reviews for Unicorn Meat on Amazon.

6. Last Sunday afternoon was amazing. Sawyer went down for a two hour nap, the dogs and I laid by the pool, and I was able to read uninterrupted in the sun. All that was missing was a cocktail... womp, womp, womp. I did this every day last summer and totally took it for granted.

7. So many people tagged me in that Weird Al grammar song yesterday. I'm going to take it as a compliment.

8. I've had some serious cabin fever lately so have made more of an effort to make plans. Yesterday I had brunch with a good friend and her son, and tomorrow I'm headed out to Newport with another friend for Sprinkles (we read the article about the cupcake industry being in jeopardy and thought we'd do our part). Saturday my mother-in-law is babysitting so we can go to dinner alone and next week I have plans with an old student and another friend, and then a quick baby-friendly hike and dinner with our couple friends. Fuck you, cabin fever.

9. Speaking of "couple friends" I was recently read an blog post (I think Brittney, Herself-?) about the importance of couple friends. This is something I must say we're lacking- we have maybe three couples we go out with? It's never been a big deal, but I think the distinction between friends you go out with alone with and couples is interesting. Why don't you go out with the significant others of said friends? It's weird. We were making a great deal of headway brainwashing our cool next-door neighbors to become couple friend number four, but things have come to a standstill (perhaps we should make an actual effort-?).

10. Another "speaking of"- one of the aforementioned couple friends noted in number nine just got engaged. They're both my really good friends, so I'm beyond excited for them. I literally squealed with glee when I got the text, and I am most definitely not a squealer. I don't think they read this, but if they do, they should know I effing squealed for them. And it wasn't even a shock.


Things I Wish I Did Better/Skills I Wish I Had*

Because nobody's perfect.

1. Knitting
2. Hanging floating shelves
3. Making rice krispies without a recipe
4. Walking away from an argument
5. Not worrying to the point of obsession
6. Upside-down French braiding
7. Dog grooming
8. Believing that there is a God
9. Returning essays in a timely manner
10. Running faster
11. Inversions
12. Remembering more of what I read
13. Not gossiping 
14. Not crying when angry
15. Commenting on blogs
16. Using my cookbooks more often
17. Not rolling my eyes as much
18. Ironing
19. Writing neatly
20. Sitting nicely through meetings
21. Laundry
22. Paper correspondance
23. Visiting my grandparents regularly
24. Eye makeup
25. Trying strange foods 
26. Gardening
27. Optimism
28. Figuring out Wordpress
29. Using coupons
30. Going on little sleep
31. Prioritizing writing projects
32. Forget people's mistakes
33. Painting my nails
34. The ability to easily participate in small talk
35. Ignoring the obnoxious neighbors

* Working draft

Top Ten Tuesday- I Read During Commercials

Long time no TTT! This week they're asking us for other types of stories- TV shows! I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but here are those that come to mind:

Warning: my TV taste is quite different from my reading taste. I take my literary endeavors much more seriously.

1. ER- I didn't watch the last few seasons, because the show ran it's course, but still, best medical drama ever. 

2. The Gilmore Girls- Can I live in Stars Hollows? Or at least go stay at the Dragonfly Inn for a weekend?

3. Sex and the City- Confession: whenever I need to create a BS account my fake email is carriebradshaw at aol dot com.

4. The Wonder Years- Winnie + Kevin = love 4ever

5. Pushing Daisies- The Pie Hole and Digby are the bestest.

6. Friends- There are so many reasons to pick on this show, but I don't care. 

7. Breaking Bad- I assume that every chemistry teacher knows how to make meth, now. 
8. Downton Abbey- I was so resistant at first, but I love this show, despite the whole period piece nonsense.

9. Gossip Girl- Guilty pleasure! Don't hate.

10. Friday Night Lights- While I could watch Tim Riggins stare at the ceiling, the show is so damn great. Augh. And Coach ain't so bad to look at either, for an old guy. And Connie Britton's hair! And Landry (who shouldn't have played a bad guy in Breaking Bad).

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

As always, link your post up below!

1. Sometimes it's easier to just shut the hell up and be nice. Some people are who they are.

[can I put this up in my classroom? source]

2. I'm reading The Goldfinch for book club and am really enjoying it so far. The only problem is that it's a pretty large book, and hard back, so reading it while I feed Sawyer has proven to be a bit of a balancing act.

3. Is it just me or is terminating a texting conversation sometimes difficult? A few of my friends and I have sort of a code- when someone just responds with :) we know it's over. Others, especially older people, like to officially end it. Then there are others, where you just don't know. You don't want them to think you're rude for just not responding, but you don't necessarily want it to drag on, and on, and on either. 

4. This video of this two-year-old's first steps is pretty sweet:

5. I received the IB and AP scores for my students this week and was incredibly surprised and pleased. We teach the AP Language course to sophomores, while most schools do it at the junior or senior level- it's tough. I wasn't sure how many of mine would pass, if any, but I had eight! 77% of my IB seniors passed their exam, while I was hoping for 60-65%, so that was another victory. These results are two-pronged: they validate my work (sorry, but as teachers we don't always get a lot of feedback) and they show what our students are capable of.

6. I finally, after talking about it for a year, ordered my external hard drive. What the hell is a terabyte? I can't even wrap my head around that much data! My husband glanced at my computer the other day and saw my non-existent organizational system for pictures and murdered me in my head. There's something about Macs that just don't work for me- on Windows, both on my old computer and mine at work, everything just fits in little folders. I guess they do on Apples too, but I've just managed to make a mess. 

7. Are you lucky enough to have an Earl of Sandwich near you? I've been once in Vegas and then a few weeks ago to the one in Downtown Disney and I'm still fantasizing about The Holiday Turkey Sandwich. Like to the point where I'm ready to drive back just for the food. 


8. Speaking of theme parks, we have decided that Sawyer won't go to Disneyland until he's four or five. I am excited to take him to LEGOland, though, despite everyone I know saying it sucks. I don't understand how that's possible! A whole entire park dedicated to the beloved colorful interlocking blocks? No way.

9. David Mitchell is doing a reading at UCLA in September. I had pretty much accepted that I wouldn't be going to any events for the rest of the year, but my husband and I are big fans so we're considering hitting up a babysitter. 

10. I canceled my Audible membership today after cashing in my credits (Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, which I've read, Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw, and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson). I haven't been listening to them since having the baby (my walks are generally with my husband now, so I don't wear headphones) and I could buy an actual book for $15 a month.