18 Aug 2017

Donna Tartt's The Secret History

I finished reading this about five weeks ago and have been meaning to write something about it ever since.  However from indexing my own book (Elinor Ostrom's Rules for Radicals) to painting my little wooden home, the next thing has always come up.

It is of course a 'why dunnit' the murderer fesses up in the first couple of pages to murdering Bunny, the rest of book deals with why the crime was committed and the consequences.

It works as a very solid holiday read.  I will have to give you the cliches but the cliches are true, it is unput downable and yes the prose is very clear too.

Is this literature?  I guess this is a question that should never be asked, culture is so much about distinctions in taste which are perhaps arbitrary but used to establish class and other hierarchical social divisions (Read Bourdieu for the theory and most episodes of Frazier for comedy illustration).

It doesn't do anything experimental or dramatic, if you want experiment House of Leaves, Beckett and James Joyce are all good fun instead.

It does touch on a lot of classic literature from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment to campus novels, in a fairly entertaining way.

The moral if there is one is that little learning is dangerous but if you want to really fuck yourself up and brutally destroy the lives of others a lot of learning is more effective dangerous than guns and drugs.

Guns, drugs, incest alcoholism and, of course, acts of astonish violence do abound but studying Ancient Greek culture is the cause, these others ills are but symptoms.

Incidentally for good or ill, you will know a lot more about Ancient Greek culture having read the book.

I guess behind everything is the sin of entitlement, those who think because they can think, they have the right to exploit others.

Much to provoke thought here but, above all, despite or because of the rather grim tale of mayhem, a good read.

Lots of good lines, for example, ' 'Mrs Corcoran's age usually went in pretty heavily for the Valium and so forth but she had enough speed to send a gang of Hell's Angels on a cross-country rampage.'

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