The Demise of Mystery
I recently finished reading The Goldfinch, the multi-layered novel by author Donna Tartt, pictured above. It is not a book to be read casually, as it was not written casually. As is her wont, Ms. Tartt took ten years to write The Goldfinch, just as she did with her previous two novels. The research is obvious here; one learns many things, from the intricate artistry of antique restoration to the dark and wasteful idiosyncrasies of the drug culture. Everything, from the harsh light that crashes down on Las Vegas to the horizontal sleet that lashes Amsterdam windows at Christmastime, is vivid. The book is Dickensian in scope, the characters diverse and clearly drawn, and it provided me with several rather theatrical dreams on the nights I read far too late. I enjoyed it immensely.
Closing The Goldfinch after reading the final sentence I thought some about Donna Tartt and realized I knew very little about her. Her author photograph remains virtually unchanged throughout her three books - same stark haircut, same direct stare. I had no idea where she lived, whether or not she was married. Did she have children? Was she gay? Did she have pets? Looking around online unearthed scant information beyond the photographic evidence that she does indeed appear to share her life with a pug. The only interviews I could find were those in which she spoke solely about her work. How refreshing this was. How unusual. As I thought about how vital, at least for me, this mystery is to the work of an artist, I stopped looking for any more information on the inscrutable Donna Tartt.
There are days when I mourn the demise of mystery. That illusive bit of uncertainty about someone; those little questions with the answers just out of reach, just past one’s fingertips, seem to add something irresistible and unique to a person. I admit that it’s often difficult to lose myself in a book or film when I know too much about the personal life of an author or actor. To preserve mysteries and surprises, I rarely read the flyleaf of a book till I’m done with it, am wary of movie previews, and rather wish great actors would stay off talk shows. But in a world where, shall we politely say, over-sharing, can land you on the cover of American Vogue, I suppose, once again, I find myself in the minority.
Just yesterday I was a little befuddled to see a “personal message” from actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, in my inbox. Upon opening it I squirmed as I read an email telling me about the breakup of her marriage, or in what I can only assume was an unintentionally humorous euphemism, their “conscious uncoupling”. It must be something beyond hubris that compels this sort of communication to the general public, but I couldn’t label it if I tried. I do fear I’ll now find it difficult to watch Ms. Paltrow in any film without this inappropriate email swimming to the front of my head like a dreaded omen on an eight-ball.
Believe me, I see the irony of extolling the beauties of mystery on the public forum of a blog. But in the writing I do here, I only crack open the window of my life, just a bit, to allow the escape of those feelings and experiences that best show the promise for bursting through the personal to join the universal. I try not to slather my writing with too much that is mine alone, as I’m sure the reader should greatly appreciate.
I confess, I’d love to know your thoughts on this.
Are you beguiled by a little mystery, as am I?
Or do you prefer to know as much as you can about someone?
If you want to read The Goldfinch for yourself,
you can find it HERE