Interview with the only person on the planet who hated The Goldfinch


Interviewer:So. Vicki. You hated The Goldfinch.
Vicki: That’s correct.
Interviewer: Do you also murder small household pets?
Vicki: What?
Interviewer: You must hate humanity.
Vicki: No, I just…did not like this book at all.
Interviewer: Are you a secret Nazi?
Vicki: What? No! This interview became inflammatory very quickly.
Interviewer: I just find it hard to believe that someone doesn’t like one of the most-well-regarded books of 2014 so far. Donna Tartt took ten years to write this thing (probably wearing pantsuits the whole time), she sweated, she labored over Theo, just so you could have this thing to read. Do you have a soul?
Vicki: I gave it a real try, honest. I read over 600 of the 700+ pages!
Interviewer: You didn’t try hard enough. Donna Tartt died so you could have this book.
Vicki: I’m pretty sure she’s still alive and doing VERY well off her book sales.
Interviewer: The book is on Amazon’s bestseller list. It was hailed as a “The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade” by Stephen King. “With a Dutch master’s attention to detail” by the Washington Post.  And a “stunning success, one of the most striking novels I’ve read in years” by some dude on Amazon.
Vicki: I know, I know, I know. I tried to get into it! I liked some of the characters! I liked Boris, the creepy Eastern European dude, and Popper, the dog. But I had to slog through every single page. But there is no feeling, nothing interesting, in ANY of the characters. I didn’t care that Theo’s mother died or that he was trying to get back to the East Coast, or about that stupid Goldfinch painting. I was just BORED. I was waiting for someone to die in a horrible fiery death again. Only if I didn’t have to read about Kitsey. KITSEY. STOP TALKING. SHUT UP KITSEY. I HATE YOU. I ALSO HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT FURNITURE, I DON’T CARE ABOUT FURNITURE AND I DON’T CARE ABOUT HOW DRUNK THEO GETS EVERY FIVE MINUTES.
Interviewer: You have no taste and you’re never allowed to blog again.
Vicki: But I LOVED her Secret History! I stayed up late at night reading it! I had high hopes!
Interviewer: You don’t know how to read English.
Vicki:  I’m not alone! I can’t be! PLEASE SOMEONE OUT THERE WHO HATED THIS BOOK.
Interviewer: The English-speaking Society for Classy Guys and Gals Who Read Pretentious Books on the Train hereby outsts you. Hand in your badge and your condescending smirk.
Vicki: I love that smirk. It’s how I know I’m better than  Danielle Steele.
Interviewer: You’re done.
Vicki: Am I allowed to read The Luminaries? Or my Yiddish book?
Interviewer: You can’t handle allegories, allusions, or explanations of art and society. You can’t empathize with characters, and you don’t understand the pains of real Authors. I hereby only allow you to read Dan Brown from now on.
Vicki: *quietly sobs in the corner*

18 thoughts on “Interview with the only person on the planet who hated The Goldfinch

  1. 1. You are not the only person who hated it. I just saw my mother in law over the weekend and she had saved her “favorite” passages for me. She read them out loud and wondered how a person who would create such a dark portrayal of what it means to be human would actually survive writing the book.

    2. I think that many of us (me included) were swept up by the hype and the mystique surrounding the process of bringing this book to life. I know that I, personally, felt so enamored with the image of Donna Tartt secluding herself for TEN years just so she could write. There is something so romantic about being this devoted to one’s craft, being so confident about one’s vision.

    3. If I were to read the book again and happened to hold a red pen, I would be relentless. There is so much that I would have edited out. The Vegas part was the least interesting to me. OK, they do a lot of drugs, I get it.

    4. I may be the only person in the world who did not like Boris. ;)

    • You hit the nail on the head…the process. I respect her as a writer, especially with social media, etc. always nagging and in the way. But like you, I would edit out about half of it. I just don’t think she has a lot of people who say no to her anymore.

    • I hated it too! Mostly because I kept waiting for a blooming story to show up and it really only made cameo appearances from time to time. It was just tedious to me most of the time. Too many lists of what Theo is looking at and about 1,000 too many ” what?”‘ And “Sorry?” . Jesus Christ, will you please pay attention? Or are you as bored a character as I am a reader? The book showed promise at the beginning but did not hold up for me. Maybe she should have stopped writing after 5 years!

    • Ughhh . I hate this book now. Cannot bring myself to finish! I am around page 650. They are traveling to recover the painting. Why? Pippa is at home! She is your treasure. Misery follows

    • I feel so vindicated. I have about 100 pages to go. And. I. Just. Can’t. I am an avid reader, but who cares about high schoolers…getting high…drunk…then some boring furniture knobs and patina….then some boring family who Theo lives with…then Boris is the WORST…..hated everyone in the book. Kitsey? Super annoying…who liked this book and why? Frankly, the most interesting character (and despicable) was Theos Dad….ok. I’m done. Thank you.

  2. You aren’t the only one. Honestly, I hadn’t even heard about this book until you mentioned it a couple of times on FB (yes, I apparently live under a rock). I checked the reviews on Goodreads, and though many are uniformly 5-star, there are quite a few more along the lines of your take on this opus.

  3. Most. overrated. book. ever. It was a supreme struggle to get through this monotonous book. Painful. The worst part is that I was looking forward to reading this at the beach and it somewhat ruined my vacation. I could not finish the last 100 pages. Returned it to the library…I labored through 660 pages of repetitive writing about boring, predictable characters and still could not justify wasting another minute on the last 100 pages. I will never get that time back!

  4. I’ve just clicked past the halfway mark of this steaming pile of turd.
    There is so much wrong with it it is actually hilarious.
    Apparently starts 14 years ago, yet everyone seems to have a smartphone and laptop computer, and the celebrities spotted in NY were nobodies back then. WTF?
    For a 13-15yo kid Theo uses the most inappropriate words and bewildering similies and metaphors.
    I just don’t believe any of it.
    And the Franzen-like banality and meandering offhandedness of it all.
    I can’t see myself finishing this. Seriously.

  5. Ok. Right before I published my Goodreads review, I looked around to see if anyone else hated this book as much as I did. So I want to thank you for your post. I posted my review on Goodreads a couple of minutes ago. Here it is… I know – too harsh??

    The Goldfinch:
    I tried to read the whole book, word by word. I tried really hard. But I have never been good at engaging writing so absent heart. So I ended up skipping a few pages here and there only to find she was still going on about the same shallow thought, pages later.

    Yes, her sentence structure, attention to detail, description, dialogue, vocabulary, literary excellence, parlance of language – yada, yada, yada – are impeccable. But that is the problem. This book feels like an thinly veiled exercise toward being a literary great. Not authentic story-telling with soul. Like piano players. There are technically great players who never miss a note. And then there are players that make music.

    Goldfinch, is the inverse of the modern literary concern you hare out there these days (especially when “poorly written” books become best sellers): the standards for good literary works (i.e. good writing) have slipped. Inarguably, the literary “standards” of this book are high. But the content slipped. And broke it’s back. I would much rather read a less masterfully written book containing some shred of heart and characters I actually care about. Or at least characters that aren’t completely devoid of any real humanity.

    The Goldfinch is composed of a bunch of two dimensional paper doll characters, flipping around in the wind, described in most excellent prose while the author uses them like puppets to indulge herself in quasi-real questions about the meaning of life. Talk about Plato’s shadows on the wall.

    It seems to me that Tartt tries desperately to mimic authentic human emotion and touch readers (after all, the boy loses his mother), strives to appear deep and probing, like she is actually searching for meaning in all of it… desperately hoping nobody will notice the contrivance. And apparently, it worked. She’s good, I’ll give her that.

    Although she seems to delve into really pithy questions like the meaning/meaninglessness of life, what truly has lasting value, reality and unreality and the magic of art among others… well, they remain intellectual exercises.

    Except in chapter twelve when she basically makes it okay (for herself?) to be a completely materialistic, narcissistic person, given the futility of life and all that. You can just blame it on your nature, right? Can’t fight that. Yes, she includes some other broad themes too – but, unfortunately, they are disingenuously handled, and stylized to hook (hoodwink) readers.

    I have never been this hard on any writer or book. Anyone who just does the hard work of writing is usually a hero to me. But all I could see in my mind’s eye during this torturous read was Ms Tartt, holed up in a SoHo hotel, ordering room service, brushing crumbs off her mouth and blotting her lipstick on a white linen napkin, trying (too hard) to write a best seller so she can be somebody. Well, she did succeed in that.

  6. LMAO. I got over 500 pages read and finally stopped. And stopped feeling guilty about it. After all, I waited six months to get it from the library. She nailed it. Uninteresting characters except for Boris and Mr. Silver…..and I read at least three or four books a month. Books like “The World to Come” and many more. Never a romance novel. So I’m well read. This? Ten years to write, eh? Just like the character in “The Hours”

  7. I hated this book. I forced myself to read the last 100 pages hoping I would find something redeemable. It got a Pulitzer for Christ’s sake. And why it did is beyond me. I liked Boris because he wasn’t boring. The rest of it -meh. Glad to see I have some company in my disdain for this waste of 770+ mundane crap, although if I didn’t it wouldn’t bother me.

  8. I am so pleased to see that I’m not the only one who strongly disliked this book. I hadn’t heard of it, but added it to my Amazon order to get free shipping (silly reason, in hindsight) because it got such great reviews on the site and it won the Pulitzer. I didn’t realize until my order came how massive this book was. I’m such a type A person with books that I was determined to finish it hoping, like some of you, that it would redeem itself in the end. Nope. Theo didn’t end up with Pippa, he was just listlessly traveling the world trying to buy back the pieces he’d sold, and seemed worse off than before. About 400 pages were dedicated to Theo and Boris in Vegas getting messed up, when that could have been a chapter or two. Basically, this whole story could have been told in only 200 pages, and it still wouldn’t have been good.

    Thanks, Vicki, for starting this page and allowing others to vent!

    By the way, the other book in my Amazon order was Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being, and it was excellent.

  9. I feel conflicted about this. I read “The Secret History” and I sort of liked it – but it also annoyed me to no end, about the same way “Catcher in the rye” irks me the wrong way (I really hate that book); pretentious, shallow characters believing the world revolves around them. Puke. “The Secret History” had so many pretentious characters you could fill a whole room with them, and each of their lessons in Greek were a lesson in how to be an arrogant elitistic jerk in my eyes. But, the story was sort of intriguing still. I bought this book with high hopes.

    I have put it aside now, basically just as Theo has arrived in NYC again after his stay in Vegas. I will probably read it all, I am a determined reader, but it just… doesn’t feel as good or involving as people claimed it would be. Theo’s mother is actually the character I’ve liked best this far (no one mentions her in these reviews), she seemed so vibrant and in the chapters about her, everything else came to life to – the city, strangers, Theo, their apartment building. And the explosion – that was a really nice piece of writing. But for some reason it just went downhill after that. I am still wondering if she made the rest of the book greyer and blander on purpose, to show how Theo’s perspective changed after his mother died (he was the narrator after all) or if that was just the thing she had pictured in her head as the great outset for a story, and she just winged it after that. It seemed to be the most thought through and worked-with part of the book.

    I really don’t understand why people fuzz about Boris either. He is the most cliched Eastern European character I have ever seen (same goes for his father). You’d think after reading as many Russian novels as she probably has, she could come up with a more authentic Eastern European character than this. But at least he was entertaining, so I guess that’s secretly why people like him.

  10. I was as much disappointed by this book as by her two previous ones. It’s certainly not a page turner and when I finally finished it I breathed a sigh of relief. She can certainly write, somewhat verbosely, but her plots are a always a bit thin. A nine-hundred page book needs a good plot and a subplot too. I read her two previous books when they came out too. Both left me with a feeling of disappointment. She has been compared to Dickens. If I was asked to sum up a Dickens’ plot, even 20 years after reading the book, I would be able to do so. Not so for Tartt’s plots. Sorry, she know’s the way, but can’t ride the bike. I think her talent would be better used as a literary critic.

  11. I was as much disappointed by this book as by her two previous ones. It’s certainly not a page turner and when I finally finished it I breathed a sigh of relief. She can certainly write, somewhat verbosely, but her plots are a always a bit thin. A nine-hundred page book needs a good plot and a subplot too. I read her two previous books when they came out too. Both left me with a feeling of disappointment. She has been compared to Dickens. If I was asked to sum up a Dickens’ plot, even 20 years after reading the book, I would be able to do so. Not so for Tartt’s plots. Sorry, she know’s the way, but can’t ride the bike. I think her talent would be better used as a literary critic.

  12. I have nothing new to add but will join in agreement that this was the most boring “great book” I have ever read. I had no interest in the characters – they were not compelling or relatable. None of them had any empathy, except for maybe a hint from Hobie, and therefore, I could not empathize with them. I just honestly did not care what happened to any of them. Or, to the stupid painting. Clearly, Theo wasn’t all that into it either seeing as he kept it in a storage warehouse for years on end and didn’t even know that Boris had taken it!

    I did finish the book reluctantly and the only surprise generated by the ending for me, was the fact that it won a Pulitzer.

    The literary critics who reviewed it negatively compared it to Harry Potter. Frankly, I think that was a compliment.

  13. I’m glad to add my voice to the throng here. I just finished it tonight, having ploughed right through his entire time in Amsterdam in one sitting. That last chapter was probably one of the worst I have ever read in my life, and his time spent in the hotel room was nearly as bad. Why on earth do I care about the personal philosophy of a fictional character. Everything I should ever want to know about Theo should have been revealed in the course of the story, of which there was actually very little.

    Theo was a terribly unrealistic character. Psychologically, he was so far from normal that anyone who met him would instantly know that he should be on medication, yet everyone he meets seems to treat him as though he’s perfectly normal. That they don’t makes it seem like every other character *also* has serious mental problems.

    Some of the characters were interesting, notably teen Boris (my best friend at that age acted very similarly), but I found adult Boris to be one of the most infuriating characters in the book. His complete inability to talk about anything in a halfway logical manner makes it absolutely amazing that he could even function as an adult.

    So essentially my problems were: Long stretches of extremely boring inner monologues by a completely unrelatable narrator surrounded by thoroughly unrealistic characters. And this is the best book of 2013? Yeah, right.

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