Thursday, October 31, 2013

On Meeting Donna Tartt

Hey guys (or the four of you that read this blog),

So currently I'm in the back of a pick-up drop on Halloween, and my friends are off shopping in Salem for the next fifteen minutes - but I had my laptop with me, and had to write this down - had to write down one of the best experiences I can remember:

I met Donna Tartt a few hours ago.

Donna Tartt is a legendary writer of the modern classic, the mesmerizing thriller The Secret History. The Secret History also happens to be my favorite book of all time. I also  believe it's the best written book of all time, although The Great Gatsby sometimes can make me think otherwise (but they're both masterpieces, let's be honest).

JK Rowling's Harry Potter series is what made me want to be a writer when I read it in fifth/sixth grade. However, Donna Tartt's The Secret History made me realize what words could do. How one sentence, the most simplest of ideas, could be transposed in a way that made your heart stop. One sentence, a phrase, a word, could make you tear up or gasp or stare off into space and just listen to the world around you, think. 

Although I had plans for later on Halloween night, I made sure I could go see Miss Tartt at a small theatre in Cambridge. There was a large audience, everyone hushed in anticipation and clearly big fans her work. When she took to the stage in a pristine suit, her black '20's-esque bob perfectly shaped, there was a huge applause like that for a pop star. Really.

She read a long passage from her new novel, The Goldfinch, (it was, unsurprisingly, incredibly thoughtful and funny), and then took questions from the audience. I can't remember all the questions, but a few that struck me-

Q) "You take ten years to write each of your novels - do the characters stick with you? Why do your novels take so long to write?"

A) [PARAPHRASED, only the ideas are the same]

Of course, it's very hard to let characters go after becoming so close to them. It's an intimate process. And I haven't completely let them go - I've continued to write about one, in a way.

My novels are so long because that's how I enjoy writing. I enjoy taking the time to craft words, looking at things from a poet's perspective - analysing over the littlest of things. This book takes place over the span of ten years - that's very hard to fake. It's really written in real-time, and I was a different person when I started this book than I am today.

She also talked about how she started off writing short stories in high school, but didn't like them because it was hard to have characters be only on a few pages, and then never write them again. When she started writing novels, after she'd started art classes, that was when she truly realized her passion. She also talked at length about the inspiration of the novel, and the sad backstory to the painter of the The Goldfinch, a painting the book revolves around.

After she finished, there was the signing.

In the line I met two really cool middle-aged women - they were shocked that a fifteen-year old had read her work, and asked me questions about how I'd discovered the 1992 novel. Of course, conversation quickly turned to the details of Miss Tartt's talk, and inevitably, the Red Sox.

In line, I kept wondering - What do you say to the person who has written a book which has changed your life?

I'd planned only to say a simple hello and thank you - but when I got the signing table, she saw my name and exclaimed, "I knew someone named [Rhys] in high school! He was a good friend of mine. It's a really rare name, isn't it?" I laughed, then explained how her book has been one of those that've really made me want to "do this", be a writer.

She smiled, nodding enthusiastically, and then gave me unforgettable advice:

"You have to be passionate about it. Write everyday - have one spot where you can go to, and sit there and work until it's right. Always, please, keep writing."

I didn't even know what to say to this. I kinda lost it - it was surreal, you know? So I just kinda said "Thank you thank you really thanks a lot Miss Tartt thanks" (something like that), and she elaborated on the signed page of my book "Especially for [Rhys], good luck and always keeping writing".

And I will.

Those words ringing in my head, I walked out of the theatre and into the Boston street - the wind was blowing an incredibly amount, but it was oddly warm, the sky a bright gray with soft rain peppering the passerby in their Halloween costumes. I put on music - "Young and Beautiful" by Lana Del Rey, thematic, rushing, inspiring.

I realized in that single moment, listening to Lana Del Rey and feeling the rain and wind around me, that this is what I want to do. Need to do. I need to always find that passion, always keep writing - hope to make something so beautiful it aches, so thrilling it burns. Do something life-changing, or simply entertaining. But always tell a story that's important.

Thank you, Donna Tartt. You've changed my life all over again.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #1

Books on my Autumn TBR list:

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This week the topic is Top Ten Books on your fall to-read list.

For this list, I'm doing the top ten books I really want to read before 2014 - not just books that coming out, but other ones that I've been meaning to get to, as well. I'm only going to do the summaries/etc for my top three, but definitely check out the others - they all look brilliant.


Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

After NIGHT FILM became one of my all-time books (really, all-time), I'm beyond excited to read Pessl's only other novel. A murder mystery of sorts, plus a precocious protagonist and tons of literary/film references. Sounds amazing, right?


The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

(loved The Raven Boys, and I'm sure this will just be more awesome Stiefvater)


The Secret History by Donna Tartt 

This book sounds perfect - arrogant liberal art students, who chain smoke and drink whiskey - oh, and commit a ritualistic murder? It's a modern classic for a reason, and I want to find out why.


Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson


The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon


Vicious by Victoria Schwab


Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


1984 by George Orwell


The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling


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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday #1:

(Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly 'book event' hosted by Breaking the Spine where we post upcoming releases that we are really anticipating. This week my "can't-wait-to-read" book is NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl.)

(Goodreads' Summary)

On a damp October night, the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. 

By all appearances her death is a suicide--but investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. Though much has been written about the dark and unsettling films of Ashley's father, Stanislas Cordova, very little is known about the man himself. As McGrath pieces together the mystery of Ashley's death, he is drawn deeper and deeper into the dark underbelly of New York City and the twisted world of Stanislas Cordova, and he begins to wonder--is he the next victim? In this novel, the dazzlingly inventive writer Marisha Pessl offers a breathtaking mystery that will hold you in suspense until the last page is turned



Night Film sounds like my kind of book, my ultimate jam. Mystery, NYC, cult films, very weird 'suicides' & more? Plus gorgeous prose? How much better can you get?

I first heard about Night Film after seeing Kara's raving tweets and then seeing her brilliant, five-star review. The cover alone, IMO, is really noir and eye-catching. But then I read a 120-page sample and am reeling by amazing it is. First off, the characters--Nora is already so lovable and hipstery, and I've already been sufficiently creeped out. Like, shivering-creepy-what-the-fuck-is-happening???

August 20th can't come soon enough. 

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Well.. hey.

I guess first blog posts are always awkward, yeah?

You don't know if you're just wasting time (is the blog gonna be lame, a pathetic regret?), or if it's actually gonna be a fun place to collect your memories and book/film reviews and TV fangirling/fanboying and all that. Hopefully, it's all that I want out of it, and hopefully, people who are unfortunate enough to come here will laugh/appreciate/think about what I say.


I'm Rhys. Teenager from the U.S. I go to prep school, and:

I go see movies with friends (favorites: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Great Gatsby and Inception).

Go to the gym.

I sometimes tweet here.

Listen to music, esp. Florence + the Machine, Lana Del Rey, MS MR, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the XX.

Read (favorites: White Cat by Holly Black, The Diviners by Libba Bray, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Harry Potter by--well, you obviously know who wrote Harry Potter. Also big fan of Stieg Larsson and Maggie Stiefvater).

Watch/flip-the-fuck-out over TV shows (mainly Orphan Black and American Horror Story.)

Orphan Black is best show ever- promise. Tatiana Maslany, clones, gov. conspiracies, BBC, Tatiana Maslany, great writing, brilliant, strong, diverse cast, Tatiana Maslany??

Walk around cities with friends and drink Starbucks and be stereotypical hipsters-- although I really hope no one thinks of me as a hipster.


All right, well that's it. The awkwardness is done, right?

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