BOOKS

The Goldfinch

Author: Donna Tartt

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

“The absurd does not liberate, it binds.” — Albert Camus

I loved this book. It was probably my favorite book of 2018.

Scarred by tragedy and a world of unreliable adults, Theo finds his way to manhood, sans solid role models, in our vale of sorrows. Along the way he’s buoyed by a love-from-afar for a fellow tragedy-scarred girl; he’s nourished by a charismatic and druggy best friend; and he’s soothed by the sweet oblivion of a meticulously-meted drug habit.

Theo’s painful origins scream for remedy like Abel’s blood in the Garden. But in this novel, as in real life, he has no choice but to bear his burdens and journey onward. Fortunately, for the reader, and Theo, he has two key means for surviving and contextualizing the tragedies that define him.

First, he has a philosophical-historical mind and we are privy to his ruminations, reflections, and coping mechanisms. Second, Theo’s mother, an art scholar, taught Theo to appreciate art and gifted him with the serenity and equanimity that come from Schopenhauer’s aesthetic contemplation. The primary object of Theo’s aesthetic contemplation is the priceless Dutch masterwork The Goldfinch by Karel Fabritius. A curious and delicate painting, it, like Theo, is the lone survivor of a tragedy: the gunpowder magazine explosion at Delft.

We see Theo cherish, fret over, and worship this masterpiece. His responsibility for and adoration of it is total because, like the narrator in Camus’ The Fall, he stole it.

I’ve now read this book twice and highly recommend it. Here are some aspects of the work that stood out and, I hope, will encourage you to read it as well.

To say much more about the plot would be to ruin some of the joy of letting the story unspool its fascinating characters who instruct, challenge, and shelter Theo in his journey. I would like to provide a few highlights about her writing style that make this voyage vivid and rich (even when it occasionally meanders into the picaresque).

Language

Tartt is a crafter of gorgeous sentences. She makes shapes sturdy and enduring, like marble, that shimmer with softness like marble in the hands of Bernini.

The beauty of hotel rooms in Amsterdam:

…the [hotel] room itself, in its bleak, drafty, sunscrubbed beauty, gave a keen sense of Northern Europe, a model of the Netherlands in miniature: whitewash and Protestant probity, co-mingled with deep-dyed luxury brought in merchant ships from the East.

Having seen more than a few hotel bathrooms in the Netherlands, I too have studied the fine lines on tiled bathrooms. She nailed it.

The ache of being alone in the world:

“Over and over, I kept thinking I’ve got to go home and then, for the millionth time, I can’t.”

Characterization

For her prodigious talent and skill with the English language, to say nothing of media persona, one might suppose Tartt to be cold or distant. I found her writing voice not to be so. She loves fiction and clearly loves her characters. Even reprehensible characters are portrayed with an honesty and tenderness that allows them to be human while having flaws that reveal the human condition.

Her characterization of Theo, our 13-23 year old protagonist, is so true to what it’s like to be a teen boy I’m frankly staggered at her imaginative capability. In particular, in Theo and his friend Boris, she captures the complex emotional stew of the hormonal tween-to-teen years where boys turn to men and where masculine and feminine norms fluctuate confusingly. Theo’s not stoic; he feels and suffers. But absent any support in his life, he holds together his fear and his vulnerability because he knows that help is not coming for him.

Tartt shows us the strange masculine “virtue” of a vivid display of the death drive in teen boys. She captures the desperate need to cry and collapse amid the (toxic, masculine) taboos against doing so. She captures the desperate love between two young men that is not sexual but is deep. Tartt captures the cruelty, self-hatred, disrespect that roil through a young person’s first adult relationships when they’re acting from a place of pain (and their attendant disasters). She captures the curious discovery that beauty and sexiness don’t always travel together: a type of beauty not captured in the glossy magazines that define our media age.

And lastly, she captures those first existential angst moments that come on for many sensitive souls in young adulthood, where ones coping mechanisms are few. For Theo, his masculinity doesn’t permit his falling to pieces. He has no reliable adults to turn to. He has one, cherished friend in whom all his hopes and dreams are tightly wound. Wedged in despair we see Theo wrestle like Kierkergaard with the prospect that everyone around one is flawed and that life is largely Fortune’s random caprice. We feel pit in Theo’s stomach as the death urge turns seductive and whispers its soothing siren-song of suicide against the inconceivable weight of being-in-the-world.

The book lets Theo tell us what it’s like to be human, and in him we find a cracked, true mirror.

Setting

The book travels to disparate parts of the globe. It starts in the East Side of New York before shifting neighborhoods to the tonier homes of Park Avenue. While resident here, Theo takes us to visit the nooks and crannies of Greenwich Village. When Theo’s unreliable estranged father re-enters the picture with his Vegas barkeep girlfriend, Xandra, Theo leaves the nest of New York for the sprawling 2008, sub-prime gutted neighborhoods of Las Vegas. After another spin of Fortune’s wheel, Theo finds himself back in New York, forging an identity against all the chaos that animated his background wedged between parallel lives blossoming in Park Avenue and the Village. Ultimately the book opens and closes in Amsterdam.

In all of her descriptions of these places that I know and love, (minus Vegas) I found nothing unfamiliar or out of character. She put as much thought into characterizing the places as characterizing the individuals. Her New York is a one that anyone who’s lived here knows: lithe, pugilistic, Dominican doormen with a gift for gab hailing cabs on pre-storm Spring days; the icy stature of a society woman as she strides on air through the layer of grime that the rest of us seem enmeshed in. It’s fabulously real and accords wonderfully with my memories and experiences of these places.

Pedigree

Tartt has often been compared to Dickens and this is aptly suggested by this work.

Theo starts off a lot like Pip from Great Expectations (one of the primary characters is called “Pippa”): confronted by a tragedy, he survives and begins to find his way in this world of ours with his roiling ups and downs. External intersect with this vulnerable boy and change the trajectory of his life in unexpected ways.

In interviews with Charlie Rose, Tartt’s discoursed at length about the novel as an opportunity for moral education and psychological instruction. She’s noted that Dickens is a master of this instructional humanity and its containing vessel.

The book plumbs the deep questions of life, if this random world of experience that only hints at reason and order can be endured amid its habit of burying our face in grime, crime, muck and misery. It’s engaging and wonderful and full of highlight-able passages (see below).

Works I’m Inspired to Explore

Mentioned in the book are other art and history texts:

  1. Janson Art History
  2. Motley History of the Netherlands

JSON Notes Extraction

{
  "title": "The Goldfinch",
  "author": "Donna Tartt",
  "highlightCount": 111,
  "noteCount": 17,
  "annotations": [
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 3,
      "highlight": "The absurd does not liberate; it binds. -- Camus"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 5,
      "highlight": "...the [hotel] room itself, in its bleak, drafty, sunscrubbed beauty, gave a keen sense of Northern Europe, a model of the Netherlands in miniature: whitewash and Protestant probity, co-mingled with deep-dyed luxury brought in merchant ships from the East."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 6,
      "highlight": "...the winter light carried a chilly tone of 1943, privation and austerities, weak tea without sugar and hungry to bed."
    },
    {
      "location": 21,
      "highlight": "I thought at first we'd gone into the wrong hall. The walls glowed with a warm, dull haze of opulence, a generic mellowness of antiquity; but then it all broke apart into clarity and color and pure Northern light, portraits, interiors, still lifes, some tiny, others majestic: ladies with husbands, ladies with lapdogs, lonely beauties in embroidered gowns and splendid solitary merchants in jewels and furs."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 21,
      "highlight": "\"They really knew how to work this edge, the Dutch painters -- ripeness sliding into rot. The fruit's perfect but it wont last, it's about to go.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 21,
      "highlight": "\"Well, the Dutch invented the microscope,\" she said. \"They were jewelers, grinders of lenses. They want it all as detailed as possible because even the tiniest things mean something...Maybe you don't see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer -- there it is.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 25,
      "highlight": "I'd seen this girl",
      "annotation": "Pippa's introduction"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 26,
      "highlight": "Her face was like someone had turned a light into it"
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 27,
      "highlight": "It was a direct and matter-of-fact little creature, with nothing sentimental about it and something about the neat, compact way it tucked down inside itself--its brightness, its alert watchful expression -- made me think of pictures I'd seen of my mother when she was small: a dark-capped finch with steady eyes.",
      "annotation": "Theme: looping time between the accident, the destruction of the Delft munitions depot"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 27,
      "highlight": "\"Fabritius was killed and his studio was destroyed. Along with almost all his paintings, except this one.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 28,
      "highlight": "\"It had to live its whole life like that?",
      "annotation": "Pippa has great sympathy for the chained creatures"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 28,
      "highlight": "\"People die, sure...But it's so heartbreaking and unnecessary how we lose things. From pure carelessness. Fires, wars, The Parthenon, used as a munitions storehouse. I guess that anything we manage to save from history is a miracle.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 29,
      "highlight": "Often I saw interesting-looking people on the street and thought about them restlessly for days, imagining their lives, making up stories about them on the subway or the crosstown bus."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 31,
      "highlight": "< The Explosion>"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 36,
      "highlight": "\"...All these French classes! Too many vocabulary words for a child. Nom et pronom, species and phylum. It's only a form of insect collecting.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 37,
      "highlight": "Or--she was there and she wasn't. Part of her was there, but it was invisible. The invisible part was the important part. This was something I had never understood before. But when I tied to say this out loud, the words came out in a muddle and I realized with a cold slap that I was wrong. Both pats had to be together. You couldn't have one pat without the other."
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 39,
      "highlight": "East Fifty-Seventh street.",
      "annotation": "Theo is an east-sider ;)"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 39,
      "highlight": "\"Meringues and caviar. How I loved this city the first time I saw it! Still, it's not the same, is it? I miss it all terribly, don't you? The balcony and the...\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 40,
      "highlight": "Hobart and Blackwell...Ring the green bell",
      "annotation": "Fate! Blackwell / Welty dies"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 45,
      "highlight": "..as I walked through, in the oddly screaming silence, the only two observers were the same two puzzled Dutchmen who had stared at my mother and me from the wall: what are you doing here?"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 55,
      "highlight": "To think of something happening to my mother was especially frightening because my dad was so unreliable. Unreliable I guess is the diplomatic way of putting it...he's been rolling on the floor in it and an air of unnatural stillness emanating from him as from some pressurized article about to explode."
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 59,
      "highlight": "..she--a perfect stranger--had saved me from walking out of the exhibition and into the black flash in the postcard shop, nada, the end of everything.  Cooking smells had begun to drift from the lower floors. Indistinct voices floated in from the neighboring apartments: abstract thumps, somebody opening and shutting cabinets.",
      "annotation": "NYC life!"
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 78,
      "highlight": "It was Mr. Barbour who opened the door:",
      "annotation": "The Barbours enter"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 79,
      "highlight": "Mrs. Barbou was from a society family with an old Dutch name, so cool and blonde and monotone that sometimes she seemed partially drained of blood. She was a masterpiece of coposure; nothing ever ruffled her or made her upset, and though she was not beautiful her calmness had the magnetic pull of eauty--a stillness so powerful that the molecules realigned themseles around her when she came into a room."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 85,
      "highlight": "But poor Andy--even before he was skipped ahread a grade--had always been a chronically picked-upon kid: scrawny, twitchy, lactose-intolerant, with skin so pale it was almost transparent, and a penchant for throwing out words like 'noxious' and 'chthonic' in casual conversation. ...he stood out like a random pastehead who had wandered out onto the lacrosse field by mistake... Years of harassment at school had rendered him even more close-tongued and uncommunicative--less apt to employ Lovecraftian vocabulary words, more prone to entomb himself in advanced placement math and science."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 87,
      "highlight": "Horns cried in the crosswalk at rush hour and the light burned gold in the windows across the street, dying down around the same time as the traffic began to thin."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 87,
      "highlight": "I missed her so much I wanted to die: a hard, physical longing, like craving for air underwater."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 88,
      "highlight": "Over and over, I kept thinking I've got to go home and then, for the millionth time, I can't."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 95,
      "highlight": "Its weighty, antiquated quality, its mixture of sobriety and brightness, were strangely comforting; if I fixed my attention on it intensely enough, it had a strange power to anchor me in my drifting state and shut out the world around me, but for all that, I really didn't want to think about where it had come from.  110|The classroom was hot and drowsy in the late afternoon, windows open, traffic noises floating up from West End Avenue."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 113,
      "highlight": "...an expanse of fogotten memory had opened up and floated to the surface with them, like one of those paper pellets from Chinatown that bloom and swell into flowers when dropped into a glass of water."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 126,
      "highlight": "Though a big man he was graceful, \"a floater,\" my mother would have called him, something effortless and gliding in the way he carried himself."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 130,
      "highlight": "Then--all at once--I did see, the implications slithering in on me with a chill. My mother too had \"died instantly.\" Her death had been \"perfectly painless.\" The social workers had harped on it so insistently that I'd never thought to wonder how they could be quite so sure."
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 179,
      "highlight": "Never saw a penny I made. I lived at home, and he was putting it all into a special account, you see, for my own good. Rough enough but fair, I thought",
      "annotation": "Motif: sons cheated by their fathers"
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 185,
      "highlight": "...when the diamond and-emerald earrings that belonged to her mother vanished from the dish on her bedside table",
      "annotation": "Everyone is losing things! See statement earlier from Audrey."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 187,
      "highlight": "He was a big, handsome guy from the Dominican Republic, something about him reminiscent of the young Muhammad Ali--sweet-tempered, always kidding around, but you didn't want to mess with him."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 225,
      "highlight": "...how easy it would have been to bring some of her things...He had gotten rid of her because he hated her."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 225,
      "highlight": "At home, my mother had known how to suffocate my Dad's anger by growing silent, a low, unwavering flame of contempt that sucked all the oxygen out of the room and made everything he said and did seem ridiculous."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 226,
      "highlight": "The painting slid out more easily than I'd expected, and I found myself biting back a gasp of pleasure. It was the first time I'd seen the painting in the light of day. In the arid room--all sheetrock and whiteness--the muted colors bloomed with life;...the atmosphere it breathed was like the light-rinsed airiness of a wall opposite an open window."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 229,
      "highlight": "...he might as well have been contemplating the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha as the leaderboard at the PGA or whatever."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 230,
      "highlight": "I might have liked Xandra in other circumstances--which, I guess, is sort of like saying I might have liked the kid who beat me up if he hadn't beat me up. She was my first inkling that women over forty--women maybe not all that great-looking to start with -- could be sexy...there was something sultry and exciting and tought about her too: an animal strength, a purring, prowling quality when she was out of her heels and walking barefoot."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 231,
      "highlight": "But when she was annoyed with me, she had a cold way of saying \"Apparently\" in answer to almost anything I said, making me feel stupid."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 232,
      "highlight": "Living with them was like living with roommates I didn't particularly get along with."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 233,
      "highlight": "\"Don't you have public transportation out here? / Nope / What do people do?  / \"They drive?\" she said, as if I was a retard who'd never heard of cars"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 235,
      "highlight": "He was pale and thin, not very clean, with lank dark hair falling in his eyes and the unwholesome wanness of a runaway, callused hands and black-circled nails chewed to the nub"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 280,
      "highlight": "Sometimes, in the night, I woke up wailing. The worst thing about the explosion was how I carried it in my body--the heat, the bone-jar and slam of it. IN my dreams, there was always a light way out and a dark way out. I had to go the dark way, because the bright way was hot and flickering with fire. But the dark was was where the bodies were."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 281,
      "highlight": "\"Who cares? If he is good to you? None of us ever find enough kindness in the world, do we?\" (Boris)"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 288,
      "highlight": "happiness, amidst the loudly clinked glasses, didn't seem quite such a doomed or fatal idea."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 304,
      "highlight": "Taking it out, handling it, looking at it, was nothing to be done lightly.  Even in the act of reaching for it there was a sense of expansion, a waft and a lifting; and at some strange point, when I'd looked at it long enough, eyes dry from the refrigerated desert air, all space appeared to vanish between me and it so that when I looked up it was the painting and not me that was real."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 305,
      "highlight": "What held me fast in these brief library-book accounts was the element of chance: random disasters, mine and his, converging on the same unseen point, the big bang as my father called it, not with any kind of sarcasm or dismissiveness but instead a respectful acknowledgment for the powers of fortune that governed his own life. You could study the connections for years nd never work it out -- it was all about things coming together, things falling apart, time warp, my mother standing out in front of the museum when time flickered and the light went funny, uncertainties hovering on the edge of a vast brightness.  The stray chance that might, or might not, change everything."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 305,
      "highlight": "Time warp: a way of seeing things twice, or more than twice."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 305,
      "highlight": "\"All money represents is the nergy of the thing, you know? It's how you track it. The flow of chance.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 306,
      "highlight": "Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch's ankle, or think what a ruel life for a little living creature -- fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place."
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 307,
      "highlight": "If you think about it when we get home, give me your Social and next time I drop by the bank, I'll open an account in your name, okay?",
      "annotation": "Recall to Hobie's lying father"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 311,
      "highlight": "Anybody from New York, in my book they're an honorary Jew."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 317,
      "highlight": "A power, a shine, came off it, a freshness like the morning light in my old bedroom in New York which was serene yet exhilarating, a light that rendered everything sharp-edged and yet more tender and lovely than it actually was, and lovelier still because it was part of the past, and irretrievable: wallpaper glowing, the old Rand McNally globe in half-shadow"
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 325,
      "highlight": "..you wouldn't believe the kind of fees they've got out here. You've got to pay...I could see where he was going with this.",
      "annotation": "Fleecing of Theo requested by father"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 331,
      "highlight": "Something in his tone had made me suspect that he knew my father might be the Lord Vader-ish presence breathing audibly...on the other line.|Father revealed"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 332,
      "highlight": "I was in a cold sweat when I hung up the telephone--and completely unprepared for the howl that my father let out. I thought he was angry--angry at me--but when he just stood there with the phone still in his hand, I looked at him a little closer and realized he was crying."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 335,
      "highlight": "Whatever the drug was making us see, we were constructing it together. And, with that realization, the virtual-reality simulator flipped into color."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 353,
      "highlight": "...we both knew well enough without me saying out out loud to him in the street--which was, of course, I love you."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 356,
      "highlight": "\"...That's the first law of magic; Specs. Misdirection. Never forget it.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 363,
      "highlight": "I went by instinct straight to our Rendezvous Point (as my mother and I called our bench)"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 365,
      "highlight": "Standing on the corner by A La Vieille Russie I found my myself overpowered with the familiar old Midtown stench: carriage horses, bus exhaust, perfume, and urine. For so long I'd thought of Vegas as something temporary--my real life was New York--but was it? Not any more, I thought, dismally, surveying the thinned-out trickle of pedestrians hurrying past Bergdorf's"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 370,
      "highlight": "\"We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.\" -- La Rochefoucauld"
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 395,
      "highlight": "He was absent-minded and kind; he was neglectful and muddle-headed and self-deprecating and gentle; often he didn't hear the first time you spoke to him, o even the second time; he lost his glasses, mislaid his wallet, his keys, his dry-cleaning tickets and was always calling me downstairs to get on my hands and knees with him to help him search for some miniscule fitting or piece of hardware he'd dropped on the floor.",
      "annotation": "Hobie characterized"
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 400,
      "highlight": "Though he was old enough to be my grandfather, he projected a vigor more in keeping with older European dads you saw on the East Side--polished, portly, self-possessed dads on their second marriages who'd had kids at fifty and sixty.",
      "annotation": "Hobie characterized"
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 418,
      "highlight": "Always remember, the person we're really working for is the person who's restoring the piece a hundred years from now. He's the one we want to impress.",
      "annotation": "Craftsmanship and programming"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 423,
      "highlight": "Fine to be nice, kind, good friends with everyone, but once you have you customer trusting and believing lowest price is from you, you've got to take your profit, ha! That's retail, mazhor. Way of the fucking world."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 427,
      "highlight": "And the farther I walked away, the more upset I got, at the loss of one of the few stable and unchanging docking -points in the world that I'd taken for granted: familiar faces, glad greetings: hey manito! For I had thought that this last touchstone of the past, at least, would be where I'd left it...Even the sidewalk felt lie it might break under my feet and I might drop through Fifty-Seventh Street into some pit where I never stopped falling."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 429,
      "highlight": "It is not flesh and blood, but heart which makes us fathers and sons. -- Schiller"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 439,
      "highlight": "Daddy, he used to yammer on how the water was the source of life itself for him fountain of youth and all that and --sure, it was. But it wasn't just life for him. It was death"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 449,
      "highlight": "spring in New York was always a poisoned time for me, a seasonal echo of my mother's death blowing in with the daffodils, budding trees and blood splashes, a thin spray of hallucination and horror..."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 458,
      "highlight": "It had been Her Bench since before I was born; in her early days in the city, she had sat there with her library book on her afternoons off, going without lunch when she needed the price of a museum pass at MoMA or a movie ticket at the Paris theatre."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 462,
      "highlight": "Angrily, I concentrated on her flaws, willfully studying the photographs that caught her at awkward ages and less flattering angles...With a beautiful girl i could have consoled myself that she was out of my league; that I was so haunted and stirred even by her plainness suggested--ominously--a love more binding than physical affection, some tar-pit of the soul where I might flop around and malinger for years."
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 473,
      "highlight": "The problem (as I'd learned, repeatedly) was that thirty-six hours in, with your body in full revolt, and the remainder of your un-opiated life stretching out bleakly ahead of you like a prison corridor, you needed some fairly compelling reason to keep moving forward into darkness, rather than falling straight back into the gorgeous feather mattress you'd so foolishly abandoned",
      "annotation": "Major ties here to DFW and infinite jest in the \"abiding\" passage"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 475,
      "highlight": "Just the sight of the bundled painting, lonely and pathetic, had scrambled me top to bottom, as if a satellite signal from the past had burst in and jammed all other transmissions."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 476,
      "highlight": "...everyone had warned me repeatedly that the physical symptoms weren't the rough pat, that even with a baby habit like mine the depression would be like \"nothing I'd ever dreamed\" and I'd smiled politely as I leaned to the mirror and thought: wanna bet? // But depression wasn't the word. This was a plunge encompassing sorrow and revulsion far beyond the personal: a sick, drenching nausea at all humanity and human endeavor from the dawn of time. The writhing loathsomeness of the biological order. Old age, sickness, death. No escape for anyone. Even the beautiful noes were like soft fruit about to spoil. And yet somehow people still kept fucking and breeding and popping out new fodder for the grave, producing more and more new being s to suffer like this was some kind of redemptive, or good, or even somehow morally admirable thing: dragging more innocent creatures into the lose-lose game.|Amazing. What young person doesn't face this?"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 477,
      "highlight": "It was rotten top to bottom"
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "location": 497,
      "highlight": "...you are, and you are very very gifted at all aspects of the business I don't care to deal with, and you have been so brilliant at getting us back int eh black again that it has suited me very, very well to keep my head in the sand. As regards what goes on upstairs. So I'm as much to blame for this as you.",
      "annotation": "Is this proof Hobie is his father, heart, not flesh and blood binding us, per Schiller, as fathers and sons"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 509,
      "highlight": "...as Hobie had pointed out sensibly enough, wasn't marriage supposed to be a union of opposites? Wasn't I supposed to bring new undertakings to her life and she to mine? And besides (I told myself) wasn't it time to Move Forward, Let Go, turn from the garden that was locked to me? Live In The Present, Focus On The Now instead of grieving for what I used to have?"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 509,
      "highlight": "...my love for Pippa was muddied-up with my mother's death, with losing my mother and not being able to get her back. All that blind, infantile hunger to save and be saved, to repeat the past and make it different, had somehow attached itself, ravenously, to her. There was an instability in it, a sickness."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 512,
      "highlight": "For unknown reasons, the gust of energy that had swept me up and fizzed me around all summer had dropped me hard, mid-October, into a drizzle of sadness that stretched endlessly in every direction: with a very few exceptions (Kitsey, Hobie, Mrs. Barbour) I hated being around people, couldn't pay attention to what anyone was saying, couldn't talk to clients, couldn't tag my pieces, couldn't ride the subway...Just why I felt so lost I didn't know."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 514,
      "highlight": "But nothing ever seemed to strike Kitsey as particularly urgent or emotional or even surprising."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 520,
      "highlight": "[I longed] even more to have the painting close to hand, to look at whenever I wanted...Mine, mine. Fear, idolatry, hoarding. The delight and terror of the fetishist."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 559,
      "highlight": "The painting had made me feel less mortal, less ordinary. It was support and vindication; it was sustenance and sum. It was the keystone that had held the whole cathedral up. And it was awful to learn, by having it so suddenly vanish from under me, that all my adult life I'd been privately sustained by that great hidden, savage joy: the conviction that my whole life was balanced atop a secret that might at any moment blow it apart."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 579,
      "highlight": "\"It's a joke, the Fabritius. It has a joke at its heart. And that's what all the very greatest masters do. Rembrandt. Velazquez. Late Titian. They make jokes. They amuse themselves. They build up the illusion, the trick--but, step closer? It falls apart into brushstrokes. Abstract, unearthly. A different and much deeper sort of beauty altogether. The thing and yet not the thing. I should say that that one tiny painting puts Fabritius in the rank of the greatest painters who ever lived. And with The Goldfinch? He performs his miracle in such a bijou space.|Hope metaphor is an illusion, it falls apart. No good reason, apparently.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 594,
      "highlight": "Stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you. What you want to live and be happy in the world is a woman who has her own life and lets you have yours.| Boris' view of marriage; this seems to actually align well to the patrician Barbour model"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 595,
      "highlight": "Years of living with a world class liar had rendered me merciless"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 598,
      "highlight": "\"...not to put you on the spot, but I know all about your things and I dont care....Look. We're right for each other. This mariage is absolutely the right thing for both of us...things are better for you now that we've been eeing each other, aren't they? You've straightened up a lot...\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 599,
      "highlight": "Andy had entertained no illusions whatsoever about his sicko family."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 603,
      "highlight": "To understand the world at all, sometimes you could only focus on a tiny bit of it, look very hard at what was close to hand and make it stand in for the whole; but eve since the painting had vanished from under me I'd felt drowned and extinguished by vastness --not just the predictable vastness of time, and space but the impassable distances between people even when they were within arm's reach of each other, wand with a swell of vertigo I thought of all the places I'd been and all the places I hadn't, a world lost and vast and unknowable, dingy maze of cities and alleyways, far drifting ash and hostile immensities connections missed, things lost and never found, and my painting swept away on a powerful current and drifting out there somewhere a tiny fragment of spirit, faint spark bobbing on a dark sea."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 612,
      "highlight": "\"Jealousy---...they don't have a drug for any of that, do they? // they did, and Jerome, up on Adam Clayton Powell was doing a booming business in it.\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 626,
      "highlight": "there'd been no freedom for Platt in his refusal to grow up, how by slacking off too long he'd managed to destroy every last glimmer of his hereditary privilege; and now he was always s going to be loitering at the margins of the party with his gin and lime..."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 627,
      "highlight": "Kitsey was far from stupid. Not only had she arranged for the marriage that would most please her mother; she was sleeping with the person she really loved."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 629,
      "highlight": "\"We have art in order not to die from the truth.\" -- Nietzsche"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 645,
      "highlight": "...as if I'd stumbled on a haiku o some other perfect combination of words to explain to he what she was to me. For a moment I stood in perfect stillness--ticking clock, submerged memories from childhood, doors opening to bright old daydreams where we walked together on summer lawns"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 650,
      "highlight": "Din of a bicycle bell, woman clattering by on the sidewalk, rattle of spokes, witchy black cape flying behind."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 695,
      "highlight": "For humans--trapped in biology--there was no mercy: we lived a while, we fussed around for a bit and died, we rotted in the ground like garbage. Time destroyed us all soon enough. But to destroy, or lose, a deathless thing--to break bonds stronger than the temporal--was a metaphysical uncoupling all its own, a startling new flavor of despair"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 695,
      "highlight": "There's always more to things, a hidden level. Luck in its darker moods and manifestations...There's a pattern and we're part of it. Yet if you scratched very deep at that idea of a pattern (which he had never taken the trouble to do) you it an emptiness so dark that it destroyed, categorically anything you'd never looked at o thought of as light."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 700,
      "highlight": "The sun didn't seem to rise until about nine in the morning and even then it was hazed and gloomy, casting a low, weak, puragatorial light like a stage effect in some German opera....At about three thirty in the afternoon the light began to go; by five p.m. it was black out."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 700,
      "highlight": " It was true about the Dutch and cleanliness, Dutch cleaning products: the market had a bewildering selection of never-before-seen items and I returned to the room with a bottle featuring a snow white swan against a snow-topped mountain and a skull-and-crossbones label on the back.|Throwback to the still life notions"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 701,
      "highlight": "...as long as history was written...the painting would be remembered and mourned....Yet living or dead: their acts stood. It was the worst kind of immortality. Intentionally or no: I had extinguished a light at the heart of the world."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 701,
      "highlight": "An act of God...some events fell so far outside the actuarial tables that even insurance underwriters were compelled to haul in the supernatural in order to explain them...just a fluke kid, one in a million, not an evasion or a cop-out in any way....a profession of faith and the best answer he had to give me, on a pa with Allah Has Written It or It's the Lord's Will, a sincere bowing of the head to Fortune, the greatest god he knew."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 704,
      "highlight": "Chance plays tricks, my dad had liked to say. Systems, spread breakdowns."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 737,
      "highlight": "So--this remorse and pain of yours--you must view it in a different light.  You must view it as heroism in the service of higher good You cannot always take such a dark perspective of life all the time, you know, it is very bad for you."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 744,
      "highlight": "\"the world is much stranger than we know or can say. And I know how you think or how you like to think, but maybe this is one instance where you can't boiled down to pure 'good' or pure 'bad' like you always want to do--?\""
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 745,
      "highlight": "What if--is more complicated than that? What if maybe opposite is true as well? Because, if bad can sometimes come form good actions--? where does it ever say, anywhere that only bad can come from bad actions? Maybe sometimes--the wrong way is the right way?"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 746,
      "highlight": "Understand, by saying 'God,' I am merely using 'god' as reference to long-term pattern we can't decipher.|Odd tie back to the meta-narrative around luck and Fortune as mentioned by Larry"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 753,
      "highlight": "It does all swing around strangely sometimes, doesn't it?"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 754,
      "highlight": "...the line of beauty is the line of beauty. It doesn't matter if it's been through the Xerox machine a hundred times."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 757,
      "highlight": "Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only--if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn't it? And isn't the whole point of things--beautiful things--that they connect you to some larger beauty?"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 758,
      "highlight": "Can't good come around sometimes through some strange back doors?"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 760,
      "highlight": "Why am I made the way I am? Why do I care about all the wrong things, and nothing at all for the right ones?...A great sorrow...we don't get to choose our own hearts. We cant make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are...What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted..A self one does not want. A heart one cannot help."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 764,
      "highlight": "...if our secrets define us, as opposed to the face we show the wold: then the painting was the secret that raised me above the surface of life and enabled me to know who I am. And it's there: in my notebooks, every page, even though it's not. Dream and magic, magic and delirium. The Unified Field Theory.  A secret about a secret."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 765,
      "highlight": "And if I could go back in time I'd clip the chain in a heartbeat and never care a minute that the picture was never painted"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 767,
      "highlight": "Yet even a child can see [the goldfinch's] dignity: thimble of bravery, all fluff and brittle bone. Not timid, not even hopeless, but steady and holding its place refusing to pull back from the world."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 767,
      "highlight": "Because, here's the truth: life is catastrophe."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 768,
      "highlight": "...we all lose everything that matters in the end--and yet to know as well, despite all this, as cruelly as the game is stacked, that it's possible to play it with a kind of joy?"
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 770,
      "highlight": "Because between 'reality' on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there's a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic."
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "location": 771,
      "highlight": "That life--whatever else it is--is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn't mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we're not always so glad to be here, it's our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and heats open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise form organic and sink back to ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn't touch. For if disaster an oblivion have followed this painting down through time--so too has love...I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality."
    }
  ]
}