But then someone on Twitter linked me to a post which was picked up by Salon here. Please read the post and come back, because I can't explain it better than the post does.
Of course, unless Ms. Tartt tells us herself, we can't ever truly know what her intention was with the novel. We can simply make our best guess using the evidence she gave us. If you read the post, I believe you've read some pretty strong evidence.
It's a novel filled with stock characters of color and with, when explained, painfully obvious racist themes. The Goldfinch is a nostalgic lament to a past filled with art, culture, beauty, while today's modern world of multiculturalism and diversity is, supposedly, sad and distasteful. As an Indian who is part of the multicultural hoopla Tartt finds sad in the present world, I was furious to realize that this book won the Pulitzer prize. This book. This book, these 800 pages from one of the world's most cherished authors, won the Pulitzer even though any literary scholar could realize the theme instantaneously (I'm no scholar, I couldn't realize it without explanation). The Pulitzer committee must have realized the theme. Is this not another Gone With the Wind? No, it's even worse, because Gone With the Wind is not focused on racism, it's focused on the complete upheaval of a society of which race-relations was one of many changes. The Goldfinch is very much about the decline of white supremacy. I was pissed. Upset and disgusted with the path English literature took with giving this book the Pulitzer. A racist, backwards novel - beautifully written - is being hailed as the greatest modern work? Have we moved forward in society or no?
So imagine my surprise when I was asked what my favorite books are, and The Goldfinch accidentally sprang up in my mind before my anger took it back down.
Why did that book come up to my mind so fast?
It's the beauty of literature. Even though I - as an Indian - should be upset by the book, I realize now that I still love it with all its faults. The book is Tartt's lament, yes, but it's a beautiful lament. Who am I to insult someone's deepest feelings? One of the main reasons I fell in love with literature is because through books, I can learn about people different than me, people who think differently than me. This book and its message are Tartt's thinking. The reason I was so upset about the book was because of the themes, and to me that's not right. I can dislike a book because of its prose, its characters, its shoddy craftsmanship, etc. but I try hard not to dislike a book because of its message.
This book beautifully presented the feeling of retreat that many like Tartt must have felt when people like my parents entered this country. As non-European immigrants and children of these (incredibly hard-working) immigrants, we see people (sadly and too often) show us their hostility in ways not nearly as peaceful as Tartt does, and not nearly as beautifully. And while there's no way in hell we're leaving (frankly, we've earned our place several times over), there's never a perspective that deserves to be ignored.
Nowadays, controversy is no longer being an activist for the gay community but being against it. Controversy is not being pro-diversity but against it. In a time where such true controversy is avoided, it's stunning to see a writer with such huge expectations take such an incredible risk with her writing by revealing her inner self. That, by any account, is to be commended. There's rarely anything nowadays that presents the condemned side of an argument in such an amazing light. I'd take The Goldfinch over Fox News any day.
Due to The Goldfinch, even as a son of an immigrant I can understand, sympathize, and (due to Tartt's use of first person) sometimes even empathize with the sadness of the dwindling prestige of white supremacy. That's not to say at all that I agree with it. That's not the point. The point is to listen, and if we can't even do that, our bigotry will be the true mark of a degrading society. I'm willing to bet there are a lot of other people who silently agree with Tartt's views but are too scared to speak because of the possibility of backlash. Yes, I'm aware of how ironic it sounds but so many times, we who are progressive and for equal rights condemn our opponents just as strongly as they condemn us. Why can't we speak our minds and let others do the same? If we are truly progressive, we'd let everyone speak in an embracing environment.
I also think I like this book because of that horribly amateurish last chapter. The whole rest of the book is good, (mostly) free from cliché. It's almost painful to see Tartt work so hard - and when she finally lets go, so to speak, in the last chapter, it humanizes the whole story. It's accessible. The reader smiles at the faults, almost laughs, and thus breaks the hard ice of 'sophistication' that caked the rest of the novel. Now it's a novel, a good old novel and no longer a Novel. And in that way, it's become my friend. A friend that I want to punch, yes. Inflict pain on because of how much it's been wrongly praised. But then hug right after because I still do grudgingly love it.
Do I think it's a good book? Even apart from the themes, not really. Do I really really really like it, almost love it? Yes. It hit a personal spot for me with its love for art.
It still shouldn't have won the Pulitzer though.
What did you think about The Goldfinch? Let me know in the comments below!