Author Topic: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels  (Read 1928 times)

Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« on: February 04, 2021, 09:13:02 PM »
Really enjoying it again. Also reminded me how much I like campus novels. Any recommendations?

Bernice

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Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2021, 03:26:56 PM »
Might be tempted to join you on a re-read of this. There's something about Tartt's writing - so much of The Secret History is seared in my mind. Not so much the plot but the scenery, the appearance and affectations of characters, the peculiar textures of time and place. The Goldfinch, which I didn't enjoy as much, has that section where the protagonist is in Arizona bumming around with his Russian pal and I could swear sometimes that those are actually teenage memories of my own, glimpsed as shimmering nostalgia on a distant horizon.

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Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2021, 04:14:16 PM »
Oh if you like a campus novel I recommend The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2021, 04:54:45 PM »
Oh if you like a campus novel I recommend The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.
I've read that, still have it somewhere. Don't think he's ever written another book, has he? There was another I read recently, The Bellweather Revivals. That was quite good although I think there was a shit bit where the hero climbs on the roof with a fit girl. Then there's Stoner which is so great. Rules of Attraction's ok, I guess.

Might be tempted to join you on a re-read of this. There's something about Tartt's writing - so much of The Secret History is seared in my mind. Not so much the plot but the scenery, the appearance and affectations of characters, the peculiar textures of time and place. The Goldfinch, which I didn't enjoy as much, has that section where the protagonist is in Arizona bumming around with his Russian pal and I could swear sometimes that those are actually teenage memories of my own, glimpsed as shimmering nostalgia on a distant horizon.

I really recommend it. Hadn't read it since around the time it came out and it's so nice to re-read. The characters are all so brilliant yet unlikable.

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2021, 01:29:07 PM »
PD James' first Cordelia Grey book (i think there was only 2?) had a nice part where she wanders round interviewing students for a case at Oxford (i think) and they go off on tangents about their philosophies.

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2021, 01:54:27 PM »
Finished The SH last night. Ah it's so good. Especially pleased that I completely forgot what happened after Bunny's funeral so it felt really fresh. One thing I was puzzled by was when I looked at wikipedia afterwards, the synopsis states " turns out that when they killed the stranger in plaid, his stomach was cut open, suggesting that it was not accident at all." I didn't get that from it at all, more that the bacchanal was fucking mental. Am I being dim?

Edit: Loads of people on Good Reads seizing on the mention of a large cat running across the road in front of Richard and Francis and taking it to mean that some kind of cougar killed the farmer. That's just fucking silly, isn't it?
« Last Edit: February 10, 2021, 02:30:53 PM by holyzombiejesus »

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2021, 02:31:01 PM »
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Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2021, 08:03:40 PM »
There's a British author called Benjamin Wood who's whole career so far has been ripping off/paying homage to Secret History (he's released a couple of very similar novels). I bought one of his books on a train journey once, but never got into it. I haven't actually read Secret History, just heard a lot about it.

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2021, 10:16:03 PM »
Yeah, he wrote that Bellweather book I mentioned up thread.

Has anyone read The Magus?

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Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2021, 11:04:27 PM »
Yeah when I was a student myself. Don’t remember much campus stuff though, it mainly involved mucking about on a Greek island.

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2021, 11:17:05 AM »
Yeah, he wrote that Bellweather book I mentioned up thread.

Has anyone read The Magus?

sorry, I didn't catch that. I've read the Magus, it's one of my favourite novels actually! though not set on a campus at all. The main character is a school teacher but it doesn't play a big part in the novel

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2021, 06:21:15 PM »
I read The Secret History as a teen and it became one of my favourite novels. I just thought it was so rich and lush and intriguing. I was really caught up in the romance of it, the way it sequesters you in a private little mystery world.

I reread it years later and enjoyed it again, but it didn't have the same impact. To be expected.

But I reread it a year ago and didn't like it.

Tartt explains every detail about 14 times - in every paragraph I find a sentence that doesn't need to be there, where she explains some concept or detail that is already clear. And like a lot of people with pretensions of writing I'm quite sniffy about attaching adverbs like "excitedly" and "irritably" to said-verbs - it should be obvious from the dialogue - and the book is fulla them.

This is an example passage, from the sequence where Camilla gets a bit of glass stuck in her leg. This isn't really the best example, there are far worse passages than this, but for some reason it stuck out to me on my last reading and I can't be bothered to fish through this ebook to find better examples.

Quote
Charles, her heel in his hand, caught the glass between thumb and forefinger and pulled gently. Camilla caught her breath in a quick, wincing gasp.

Charles drew back like he'd been scalded. He made as if to touch her foot again, but he couldn't quite bring himself to do it. His fingertips were wet with blood.

'Well, go on,' said Camilla, her voice fairly steady.

'I can't do it. I'm afraid I'll hurt you.'

'It hurts anyway.'

'I can't,' Charles said miserably, looking up at her.

'Get out of the way,' said Henry impatiently, and he knelt quickly and took her foot in his hand.

Charles turned away; he was almost as white as she was, and I wondered if that old story was true, that one twin felt pain when the other was injured.

Camilla flinched, her eyes wide; Henry held up the curved piece of glass in one bloody hand. 'Consummatum est,' he said.

Francis set to work with the iodine and the bandages.

'My God,' I said, picking up the red-stained shard and holding it to the light.

'Good girl,' said Francis, winding the bandages around the arch of her foot. Like most hypochondriacs, he had an oddly soothing bedside manner.
'Look at you. You didn't even cry.'

'It didn't hurt that much.'

'The hell it didn't,' Francis said. 'You were really brave.”

Henry stood up. 'She was brave,' he said.

I find the last bolded part odd. It feels like the natural ending for this passage is Henry's line "Consummatum est". I mean, he's quoting Jesus, "It's finished." Why would you continue the scene after that? And all it amounts to is some blokes saying how brave the girl was. You might argue that's to dramatise some subtext about how the men see the only female character, like they're protesting too much, but it doesn't feel like that to me. It  just like a sort of rambling bit of writing, "and I'll make the characters say this now, yes that feels natural".
« Last Edit: February 15, 2021, 08:16:40 PM by popcorn »

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2021, 02:51:28 PM »
.

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Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2021, 03:21:25 AM »
Went to a bunch of second hand bookshops today to find a copy of this, and found none. Dozens of copies of "The Goldfinch", mind.

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2021, 09:32:27 AM »
Went to a bunch of second hand bookshops today to find a copy of this, and found none. Dozens of copies of "The Goldfinch", mind.

DM me your address, I've got two copies.

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2021, 11:42:07 AM »
I never read Goldfinch or History, but I read "The Little Friend" when it came out. I quite enjoyed it, knowing nothing about her previous book, or how most fans were considering "Friend" a disappointment that would be lost to obscurity. I just thought it looked like a good thriller.

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Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2021, 02:31:51 PM »
Might be tempted to join you on a re-read of this. There's something about Tartt's writing - so much of The Secret History is seared in my mind. Not so much the plot but the scenery, the appearance and affectations of characters, the peculiar textures of time and place. The Goldfinch, which I didn't enjoy as much, has that section where the protagonist is in Arizona bumming around with his Russian pal and I could swear sometimes that those are actually teenage memories of my own, glimpsed as shimmering nostalgia on a distant horizon.

This is absolutely my experience and that of other people I know who have read it. I think she uses repetition effectively, she will highlight a few features of a place and repeat them again and again, and somehow your brain fills in the rest to create a really vivid image. When Theo is in the house in Vegas I think it is the air-conditioning she repeats over and over, and the sounds. She has a real talent for describing places I think - at the end of The Goldfinch she completely replicates the feeling of being in a small, quiet hotel, to the point that it's a little uncanny

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2021, 03:14:00 AM »
Finished The SH last night. Ah it's so good. Especially pleased that I completely forgot what happened after Bunny's funeral so it felt really fresh. One thing I was puzzled by was when I looked at wikipedia afterwards, the synopsis states " turns out that when they killed the stranger in plaid, his stomach was cut open, suggesting that it was not accident at all." I didn't get that from it at all, more that the bacchanal was fucking mental. Am I being dim?

Edit: Loads of people on Good Reads seizing on the mention of a large cat running across the road in front of Richard and Francis and taking it to mean that some kind of cougar killed the farmer. That's just fucking silly, isn't it?

Yeah, don't remember that stomach detailat all. I thought that the animal they saw when they killed the farmer was some kind of god-thing that they had conjured up with their bacchanal, or a hallucination of one

Jockice

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Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2021, 01:17:32 PM »
Went to a bunch of second hand bookshops today to find a copy of this, and found none. Dozens of copies of "The Goldfinch", mind.

If you hadn't already been offered it you could have had mine. I've tried to read it several times - with lengthy gaps in between - and have never got beyond halfway. Dunno why, but it just doesn't do it for me

Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2021, 12:10:13 AM »
I love it precisely because everyone in it is terrible. Except maybe Judy Poovey, who ends up happier than any of the clique.

Bernice

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Re: Re-reading The Secret History/ Campus Novels
« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2021, 09:39:06 PM »
Love Judy Poovey. Also one of the great fictional names.

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