I definitely do have a thing for reclusive American writers: JD Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, Harper Lee. (In high school I was so nerdy that I sat in the local university library and looked up unpublished Salinger stories on microfilm. I won’t go into any further detail sorry.) So it might follow that Donna Tartt who just published her third novel within a span of 20+ years and is spoken of as publicity shy might be of interest to me. Well, I did read her massively hyped and massive in sheer-length latest entitled The Goldfinch over the Xmas holidays. I found myself feeling a bit guilty about devouring a book that I am being told by the media around that time to devour (for example I have enjoyed Jonathan Franzen’s essays tremendously but Freedom…!) And I’ve never been a great Dickens reader (poisoned at school) except watching BBC costume dramas—does that count? At any rate, back to Tartt (compared to Dickens by the doorstop creating horror machine Stephen King in the N Y Times) I really enjoyed the first half of the book, a mix between a paranoiac mystery crime story and a behind-the-scenes look at Antiques Roadshow. I guess I did like the fact that despite its utter preposterousness and over the top qualities, it engaged me with smooth prose and a few vivid characters, most significantly Boris, the Russian boyhood friend of the narrator, whose moral code is rather relativistic (to say the least) and focussed on moment-to-moment hedonism and the joyful experience of life. If nothing else would have pulled me along in the novel it is Boris’s wild, enviable spirit, which Tartt conjures obviously with great relish and more subtlety (at least earlier in the book) than many other aspects of the novel. I also read the UK review of The Goldfinch that’s been nominated for “hatchet job” of the year written by Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times. But the aforementioned Stephen King certainly knows his way around narratives that grip huge audiences so he’s quite aware of the tactical moves Tartt made to create what he calls “a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind.” I’m still deciding my own verdict, despite having pressed the buttons of my worn (and now extra-worn) Kindle at a rapid click while avoiding wrapping my daughters’ Xmas doodads. But just ran across these video interviews with Tartt who looks a bit like a startled and overdressed Asperger-ish little bird who spouts platitudes in both. That is to say, interesting performances of the “writer in public.” I’m not certain that these clips would have encouraged me to pick up the book if I’d seen them earlier, but they serve as perverse little examples of how big media news “handles” fiction—the obviously clever Charlie Rose always sounds pretty awful in these encounters.