The Secret History by Donna Tartt

  • Thus he died, and all the life struggled out of him;
    And as he died he spattered me with the dark red
    And violence-driven rain of bitter-savored blood
    To make me glad, as gardens stand among the showers
    Of God in glory at the birthtime of the buds.
  • Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? We want to be devoured by it, to hide ourselves in that fire which refines us.
  • …and I was initially attracted to her because she seemed like an intelligent, brooding malcontent like myself; but after about a month, during which time she’d firmly glued herself to me, I began to realise, with some little horror, that she was nothing more than a lowbrow, pop-psychology version of Sylvia Plath. It lasted forever, like some weepy and endless made-for-TV movie – all the clinging, all the complaints, all the parking lot confessions of ‘inadequacy’ and ‘poor self-image’, all those banal sorrows.

 

[The Secret History isn’t the kind of narrative that would move or wrench powerful emotions out of you, but once in a while it does bring back the stink of inflated pubescent self-worthiness and might make you recall (if albeit fondly) about the over-glorification of being ‘cool’, ‘popular’, being in ‘love’ or ‘different’, that you and your peers might have strove (secretly, resignedly – knowing you will fail, or outrightly) to achieve.

It might remind you of your unsteady transition from post-adolescence into adulthood, or of the times when reason evaded you on why you were working so hard to complete your dissertation, why you were attending classes in the morning or why you had to show up for group projects. It might also remind you of the shallow fear that grips you unexpectedly when you were unsure if wearing a particular article of clothing might tip the scales ever so slightly away from looking like you have a genuine passion in acquiring knowledge to appearing pretentious and dilettante-like.

This book is fraught with the loss of time and youth. Lost time, wasted time. Blighted youth, smeared by alcohol and drugs, wasted youth. It draws to light the filth in which we emerge from to become adults and makes you ponder – long after you have turned the last page – how many of us actually manage to leave it behind when we journey into the next phase.]

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