book thoughts: the goldfinch

I wrote this exactly two weeks ago, after I learned that Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In a way, this is the Side B to my previous post, the same book that I took with me to the park. I wanted to get my thoughts down on paper, because I've been missing its characters since I read it in January, and I was curious to know why I'm so attached to it.

Here's the transcript of what I wrote (may contain some plot spoilers):

Today 'The Goldfinch' won the Pulitzer. I don't even know why I love it so, it's not the kind of book that I often go crazy about. I think what really won me over about this novel is it's ability to take me to this fictional world and really live in it. I remembered feeling so bereft when I finished reading it - all 771 pages - and really missing the characters in a huge way. I missed Theo and Boris, I missed hanging out inside Hobbie's antique shop, I missed Amsterdam at Christmas, even if I've never been to Amsterdam. That's how 'real' the story was to me.

I know that if I look at it closely, there are some inconsistencies, and too many random coincidences that propelled the plot forward, but I honestly don't care about those things. Because in those two weeks that I lugged that heavy book around, reading it before I go to sleep, reading it in coffee shops and talking to strangers about it, I was completely swept away in Theo's world. I felt his heartache when his mom died, I fell in love with Boris and was drawn to his larger-than-life personality, the way Theo must have been drawn to him, and I wanted to be a part of their crazy (mis)adventures, no matter how messed up and unbelievable they are.

And isn't this the whole point of reading fiction? To be swept away in a make believe world and learn about one's self in the process? Reading 'The Goldfinch' felt like that to me, it was like falling in love with books for the first time, all over again, and being enchanted with worlds and stories between it's pages.


I've been rereading some passages that I highlighted, and this one really stood out for me.

"And just as music is the space between notes, just as the stars are beautiful because of the space between them, just as the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of color across the sky - so the space where I exist, and want to keep existing, and to be quiet frank I hope I die in, is exactly this middle distance: where despair is struck pure otherness and created something sublime."


Has any of you read The Goldfinch? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

a windfall


How I Would Paint Happiness

Something sudden, a windfall,
a meteor shower. No—
a flowering tree releasing
all its blossoms at once,
and the one standing beneath it
unexpectedly robed in bloom,
transformed into a stranger
too beautiful to touch.

by Lisel Mueller, from Imaginary Paintings


Today I briefly sat under this tree, the wind was blowing steadily, and I found a pink blossom that fell on the grass. I tucked it between the pages of a beloved book, and left because it was starting to get too cold. Then I went to a coffee shop nearby and had hot apple cider, while writing a letter to a friend who lives in Amsterdam.

Is it possible to miss a place you've never been? Because I feel that way about Amsterdam, and other cities I've known only through books. 


Poem taken from The Paris Review, Issue No. 124, Fall 1992


by Carl Philipps, The Kenyon Review



I miss the sea.

I miss the storms
that stopped there.

How much is luck, again opening,
and luck shutting itself down, what we
never expected, or only sort of did,
or should have?

The windfalls of my mistakes sweetly rot beneath me.

Two hawks lift—headed north—from my highest bough.



So he’s seen the blizzard that the future
looks like, and gotten lost,
a little. All the same— 

he gathers the honeysuckle in his arms,
as for a lover. Cloud of bees,
of yellow.

His chest, blurring bright with it.

Who’s to say brutality’s what he’ll be wearing,
when he goes?



There’s a light that estrangement,
more often than not, briefly
leaves behind it.

                         Then the dark—blue and damned,
erotic: here, where—done at last
with flashing like
power itself at first, then what power

comes to—the field
lays down its winded swords. —My head;
beside yours.


This poem is very special to me. It got me through those cold days in December when I was very sick and could only stay in bed, longing for the day when I will finally see the ocean again.

I took these photos with a disposable camera on New Year's Day. The tides were so huge, the light so luminous, you can't help but feel your heart expand to contain it all. 

Poem is taken from The Kenyon Review, Winter 2014, Volume XXXVI.

today's inpiration: the redwoods


“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”

--Emily Dickinson