Three Quotes in Three Days Challenge: Day One

Quotes Day One

I was tapped by the wonderful Clare Snow to take part in this fun little challenge, and I am never one to walk away from a challenge.

First up, the rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you
2. Nominate three more blogs
3. Post one quote each day for three days

A big thank you to Clare. She writes fabulous reviews of (mostly) YA and graphic novels over at Of Ceiling Wax and Other Things, and if you aren’t already following her, you should change that.

To keep this circling around the interwebs, I nominate Shelleyrae at Book’d Out, Sarah at I Would Rather Read and Laura at Paperback Fool to post their quotes.

My first quote is from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt:

‘What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted—?’

It comes from one of my favourite passages both in this book and any book:

A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t 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.

Because—isn’t it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture—? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it’s a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what’s right for us? Every shrink, every career counsellor, every Disney princess knows the answer: ‘Be yourself.’ ‘Follow your heart.’

Only here’s what I really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted—? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight towards a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster? Is Kitsey right? If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups?, stable relationships and steady career advancement, the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or—like Boris—is it better to throw yourself headfirst and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?

It’s not about outward appearances but inward significance. A grandeur in the world, but not of the world, a grandeur that the world doesn’t understand. That first glimpse of pure otherness, in whose presence you bloom out and out and out.

A self one does not want. A heart one cannot help.

No wonder The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer! One of the (many) things I love about Tartt is her exploration of Fate, Divine Madness and our often troubled relationship with art and beauty. When we’re young we’re told to follow our hearts, but we’re rarely warned that this can be a dangerous path. Both in The Goldfinch and her first novel, The Secret History, Tartt focuses on characters who follow their desire for art and beauty with disastrous results. However, she also makes it clear that these characters never really have a choice—they are fatally flawed—and that, bad as things get for Theo Decker, Richard Papen, Henry Winter and the rest, the alternative—an unextraordinary life—would somehow be worse.

I wrote (gushed) about Donna Tartt both in my PhD thesis and in Issue #16 of kill Your Darlings. There may still be copies floating about. And should anyone ever feel the need to talk all things Tartt, do get in touch.

If you haven’t yet read Donna Tartt’s novels, YOU MUST, and you can find them here:

The Secret History The Little Friend The Goldfinch
The Secret History (1992), available:

The Little Friend (2002), available:

The Goldfinch (2013), available:

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