Shortly after starting this book I Wikipedia'd Donna Tartt, to see if I was dealing with some sort of reverse George Eliot. I had been under the impression that only men got this smugly pretentious. But no, she's a real woman! Ask Bret Easton Ellis, whom she was banging at U. Miss while in a grad writing course that also included Jonathan Lethem and Jill Eisenstadt that must have had A Whole Lot of Writin' in it.
I bet after Donna Tart banged Bret Easton Ellis they would lie back in bed and just talk about all the annoying books they were gonna write. "Man, the people in my books are gonna be so awful.
" "Oh, yeah, me too. I'm never going to write any characters at all that anyone can tolerate." "I want to be known as, like, you know how Shakespeare is given credit for inventing modern man? I want to be known as the person who really defined douchebags." "You're the only person who understands me, Bret."
Anyway, I guess she's a great writer, because she does a terrific job of inhabiting the sort of insufferable, pedantic twit who brags about knowing the locative case in Greek. Oh, me and my clever little friends! We wear cuff links and read Seneca and describe our ex-girlfriends as "A lowbrow, pop-psychology version of Sylvia Plath...all the clinging, all the complaints, all the parking-lot confessions of 'inadequacy' and 'poor self-image,' all those banal sorrows." We don't seem to like women very much, do we?
It settles down, a bit, after the first quarter or so, into a passably competent thriller-type-thing. Murder and such. It's reasonably entertaining. A bit fixated on "hippies," which word appears 23 times and always with negative connotations, so that's weird, but whatever. I guess we all have our boogeymen. It gets - to use my girlfriend's word, which made me want to just hug the shit out of her - super "plotty" towards the end, which was good, but I felt a little let down by the denouement; I was kinda hoping for some huge revelation, like everyone was scheming to frame Richard, or Julian was in on it, or some crazy shit like that, so just having Henry shoot himself was, like...not plotty enough for me? I don't know, that's unfair of me to say but it's how I felt.
I've heard people say that the neat thing about Secret History is how it shines a realistic light on what it really means to murder a guy. Like, away with the murder mystery cliches, here's how it happens, and the family's funeral, and everything. And she kinda does, and I can appreciate that. But she gets to it by cheating, doesn't she? They get into this situation because they've already killed the other guy, whom they hadn't
planned to kill. So it's not about how normal people might interact with murder - it's how normal people who already killed a guy during a Bacchanalian orgy
might interact with murder, the next
time. That's not the same, and it's not actually realistic either. It's only happened to me like two or three times, and I found it way easier to cover up than these guys did.
Maybe I just don't have any friends like Bunny.