Donna Tartt's third novel, The Goldfinch, is already being greeted with awe. Why does her work inspire such devotion?by Hannah Rosefield / February 12, 2013 / Leave a comment
When The Secret History was published in September 1992, hype had been building for months. The author, Donna Tartt, was 28. She had received a $450,000 advance. She was elegant and miniature (“I’m the exact same size as Lolita,” she told an interviewer) and enigmatic. She could recite poetry, even entire short stories, by heart. As an undergraduate, legendary writer and editor Willie Morris had read her work and approached her with the words, “My name’s Willie Morris, and I think you’re a genius.”
Tartt’s vogueish glamour was boosted by her connections to the “literary brat pack,” a young, East Coast group of writers whose tales of drug use and disaffection were, in the late 80s and early 90s, a by-word for literary cool. Bret Easton Ellis, one of the leaders of the pack, had been Tartt’s close friend and classmate at Bennington College in Vermont. Tartt had started The Secret History at Bennington, and it was whispered that her friends there had been the models for the novel’s characters.