I’m currently reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s very dark and very addictive: you know the feeling where any time you’re not reading that certain book you’re still thinking about it, either wishing you were reading it or trying to transport yourself into the unique “feel” of the book, projecting the atmosphere of the book onto everything around you?
I talked before about Breakfast At Tiffany’s and falling a little bit for the glamour of a book that really shouldn’t feel glamorous. The Secret History makes me wish it was the early nineties and I was studying classics at Hampden College in Vermont, even though it sounds like a dump, a second rate university where students make meth in the basement of the “dorms”. (Say what you will about the Americans, staying in “dorms” sounds way cooler than staying in “halls” like we do in the UK. So plain.) The clique in The Secret History, like all students, think that their clique is better than all the others on campus. They get obsessive about their studies, drink heavily, wear designer clothes and spend most of their time traipsing through several feet of snow. They also kill a guy, which isn’t a spoiler: narrator Richard Papen tells you so right in the preface. It would be hugely spoily for me to tell you anything like why.
Please join me in Hampden! It’s a perfect book for Autumn, all academic and broody and twisty; and the kind of book I wish I’m desperate to share and discuss. It’s the opposite of The Master and Margarita, another book that I read this year and really loved but that one felt more like a solitary thing. This might just be my brain’s super simplistic reaction to the cliquey structure of The Secret History (whenever Bunny, Henry, Charles, Frances and Camilla aren’t present they’re buzzing around Richard’s brain) versus the way The Master and Margarita follows one individual, then another, then another more like a tight chain of black magic and gossip. Emotionally, The Master and Margarita is about love and paranoia whereas The Secret History is about communal feelings like bitching, fear and sharing.
Self-deprecation aside, The Secret History is a book I want to talk about. The Master and Margarita is a book I wanted to think about, which is why I never wrote about it on this blog but I am still mulling it over, you know, in my brain. Until then, here are some pictures that I feel express the same sort of feeling as The Secret History, that I also needed to clear through and organise anyway. Hopefully, dear reader, they will persuade you: