Book report: The Goldfinch

The first fifty pages of The Goldfinch flew for me. Passages about art, gorgeous descriptions, heady page-turning. I thought it would be my thing entirely until I slowed to nothing and all but gave up. I don't give up on books easily and I guess I pulled myself back in part because so many people were tweeting about the trembling, wrenching finish.

I finally finished last night. The book lost me in Vegas. I'm not one much for booze and drug-addled storylines. But the descent from the violin patina of New York to the barren glare of Vegas emptied me out. I suppose it was supposed to and I don't think it was a mistake that I felt this way. But the writing too at this point became barren and flat to me, stretching on page after page.


It's something to read a book and know it's good, to think it's probably a masterpiece, but not feel moved by it. I've always been guilty of following my heart. Yes, I like layered intelligence. Yes, I relish the challenge of difficult language or ideas or construction. But if something doesn't also move me - fizzle in my mind, fill up my eyes, wrench its way into my dreams - I find it difficult to believe in its brilliance.

But still. The loneliness of having missed something. Of feeling that something great has eluded me. I read this, feeling none of it really hooked up to how I felt reading the book. And I don't think SNP's wrong, in fact I'm inclined to think you should go by her and not by me. I only think I missed it, was not ready for it, am not built for it somehow.

I guess this is one of those points and it's a point made beautifully in the book itself at the very end (the part of the book I most enjoyed and wished more had been like): "A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don't get to choose our own hearts. We can't make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are."

I love the dilemma this creates; whether we should fight for the oughts or hurl ourselves into the wants. And I guess I tend to follow my wants, though my conscience often pricks with the oughts. And I finish books I don't love, hoping there's a moment when the light pours in, feeling like it's the dutiful, good and respectful thing to do.

But I'll reach for the next one and hope instead it's one that sends me hurtling.
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