Finally, she was here.

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Author Donna Tartt has been awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her critically acclaimed third novel The Goldfinch. The Secret History author said she was “incredibly happy and incredibly honoured” by the award.

Tartt’s 784-page bestseller The Goldfinch, which was named Amazon’s 2013 book of the year, is set in modern Manhattan and tells the story of a young orphan coming to terms with the death of his mother. Columbia University, which awards the prize, said judges described it as “a beautifully written coming-of-age novel … that stimulates the mind and touches the heart. The book, which is in the running for this year’s Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK, beat two other nominees, The Son by Philip Meyer and The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis. Fans of Tartt had waited a decade since her second novel The Little Friend, which many had found disappointing after her strong 1992 debut The Secret History.

“The only thing I am sorry about is that Willie Morris and Barry Hannah aren’t here,” said Tartt, referring to two authors who were her early mentors. “They would have loved this,” she added. Last month it was reported by The Wrap that a film version or TV series of The Goldfinch is in the works, by the producers behind The Hunger Games. (via BBC)

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As her latest book The Goldfinch is published to global acclaim, Donna Tartt revisits her debut novel The Secret History.

“I began The Secret History at college and worked on it while I was there. Going to school in New England was a very striking experience for me, and it was for Bret Easton Ellis too. I had at least seen snow before – I don’t think Bret had. To come from a warm place and to go to a cold place – and Vermont was a very cold place – a lot of my very visceral memories of going to school for the first time are powerful with snow, and of very deep snow in the spring time. The weather – it really does affect moods, we all know it does.

I was in a novel writing tutorial with Bret and one week he would bring in a chapter of Less Than Zero, and I would bring in a chapter of The Secret History, back and forth like that and then he finished it! We went home for the Christmas holidays and he came back and said, “I’ve finished my book!” It wasn’t until so many years later when I finished mine. I was in the city and everything was different, and I was missing the warm friendly world of school and the things I loved, so writing the last part was a way for me to be back there. I think I caught something because I was very young, part of the flaws and virtues of the work are because I was so young. But mainly when I left, I wanted to be back at school so bad, and writing was a way of getting back to that.

But it nearly didn’t happen – I actually abandoned it for a long time. A very well known editor read it and said, “This book will never be successful because no book has ever been written by a woman from the point of view of a man, you need to re-write all this”. I was like “What?” and I stopped writing it, for about a year. The thing was that I couldn’t have told the story I wanted to tell from a female point of view, because then there would be the question, “Is she doing this because she’s attracted to him?” It would have been an interesting novel, but it wasn’t the novel I wanted to write. There had to be no question, a way to keep it a purely moral decision and that was the territory of the novel. My main character had to be male. Brett Ellis who had been published at this time and was incredibly famous kept niggling at me to finish it, and in the end, obviously, I did, but I did have a long hiatus where I was just about at the point where I wouldn’t have been able to finish it again, because it does happen, you lose the thread, you lose the characters. The whole thing was almost lost.”

Ask someone for a book recommendation, and more often than not The Secret History will be proffered; the voice of its advocate ringing with a cocktail of smitten reverence and jealousy that someone will be falling anew into the elite world of Hampden College, Vermont. Published in 1992, dubbed by the New York Times as a blend of “Dostoyevsky, Euripides, Easton Ellis and Waugh”, the novel immediately entered the literary canon; while its author, a minute and enigmatic figure of just 28, became an endless source of fascination for journalists, critics and readers alike. More than 20 years and another two ecstatically received books on – the latest, The Goldfinch, was published in October – the enigma remains, as does Donna Tartt’s crisp black bob and the stern elegance that has both enchanted interviewers and crushed all hopes of a scandalous scoop.

It is with the promise of insight into her debut novel that a few hundred avid fans pressed themselves into all corners of a large wood panelled room at London’s National Geographic Society. It’s a discordant collection of individuals, all ages, all nationalities, all bundled in scarves against the chilly London night, all agog with excitement at the imminent arrival of Tartt to discuss her work. At her entrance, a palpable frisson darts around the large space, the night ends in an hour long queue for her signature – indeed, there is no one on the literary roster quite like Tartt for inspiring a rock star reaction, albeit one part-concealed by her audience’s desire to look as cool as she does.

And this is what makes Tartt fascinating. Bret Easton Ellis pronounced, “You can’t be Salinger and be represented by ICM,” but she has ridden out the contradiction, keeping her privacy cemented and her allure intact in a literary world that has come to rely on salacious authorial antics to boost sales. The awe inculcated in the hearts of tonight’s audience comes from the fictional worlds she conjures so vividly on the page, their passionate interest in the creator forever corralled by the respect she engenders.

The Goldfinch is out now, published by Little, Brown. Donna Tartt was speaking at The Guardian Book Club.

Text by Tish Wrigley – AnOther

She´s finally back…

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“Sometimes you can do all the right things and not succeed. And that’s a hard lesson of reality.”

Donna Tartt (born December 23, 1963) is an American writer and author of the novels The Secret History (1992) and The Little Friend (2002). She won the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend in 2003.

The daughter of Don and Taylor Tartt, she was born in Greenwood, Mississippi and raised in the nearby town of Grenada. At age five, she wrote her first poem, and she was first published in a Mississippi literary review when she was 13. Enrolling in the University of Mississippi in 1981, she pledged to the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. Her writing caught the attention of Willie Morris while she was a freshman. Following a recommendation from Morris, Barry Hannah, then an Ole Miss Writer-in-Residence, admitted Tartt into his graduate short story course. Following the suggestion of Morris and others, she transferred to Bennington College in 1982, meeting then-students Bret Easton Ellis and Jill Eisenstadt.

Tartt began writing her first novel, originally titled “The God of Illusions” and later published as The Secret History, during her second year at Bennington. She graduated from Bennington in 1986. After Ellis recommended her work to literary agent Amanda Urban, The Secret History was published in 1992, overwhelming the 75,000 copies in the first printing to become a bestseller. It was later translated into 24 languages. The Secret History is set at a fictional college that closely resembles Tartt’s alma mater. The plot concerns a close-knit group of six students and their professor of classics. The students embark upon a secretive plan to stage a bacchanal. The first-person narrative is flavored heavily by the differences within the group. These include: social class, privilege, intellect and sexual orientation. The narrator reflects on a variety of circumstances that lead ultimately to a murder within the group.The fact of the murder, the location and the perpetrators are revealed in the opening pages, usurping the familiar framework and accepted conventions of the murder mystery genre. Critic A.O. Scott labeled it “a murder mystery in reverse.”The book was wrapped in a transparent acetate book jacket, a retro design by Barbara De Wilde and Chip Kidd. According to Kidd, “The following season acetate jackets sprang up in bookstores like mushrooms on a murdered tree.”

The Little Friend, Tartt’s second novel, was published in October 2002. It is a mystery centered on a young girl living in the American South in the late 20th century. Her implicit anxieties about the long-unexplained death of her brother and the dynamics of her extended family are a strong focus, as are the contrasting lifestyles and customs of small-town Southerners.

In 2002, it was reported that Tartt was working on a retelling of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus for the Canongate Myth Series, a series of novellas in which ancient myths are reimagined and rewritten by contemporary authors. In September 2008, it was announced that Tartt would publish her third novel with Little, Brown and Company. The new novel, as yet untitled, is a story of loss and obsession about a young man, guilt-stricken and damaged after the death of his mother, and the growing power that a stolen piece of art exercises over him, drawing him into an underworld of theft and corruption where nothing is as it seems. Publication is scheduled for 2012. (via Wikipedia)