Donna Tartt (born December 23, 1963) is a Pulitzer-Prize winning Neo-Romanticist writer of upper middle class southern background who, after attending Bennington College in the 1980s, was hailed as an influential late-comer in the "Literary Brat Pack," a group that also includes '80s staple Bret Easton Ellis. Tartt emerged on the literary scene with her widely successful 1992 novel The Secret History, which was a breakout bestseller throughout much of the rest of The '90s, and has since become a Cult Classic. The novel follows the adventures of a Six Student Clique of upper class Classics students who inadvertently commit manslaughter and try to hide the details from their new acquaintance, the story's lower middle class narrator who idolizes their culture and lifestyle. Her second novel, The Little Friend, resulted in a Broken Base due to its many thematic and stylistic differences from her first novel. More recently, she won the Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch, about the traumatic adventures of a young man named Theo after the death of his mother in an explosion at a museum.
In interviews, Donna Tartt has stated that she is Catholic and celibate. Her public appearances involve a sleek, dark and androgynous tailored wardrobe that would not look out of place in the ad pages of Vanity Fair magazine. Tartt's novels are devoted to the themes of guilt and beauty, and focus heavily on the tumultuous thoughts and feelings of her protagonists. It might not be inaccurate to call her the Morrissey of literary fiction.
This author's works provide examples of:
- The Alcoholic: A few of her characters, such as Theo's father in The Goldfinch and Charles in The Secret History.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: And some boys want them too. Factors heavily into the descriptions of some of her characters and their relationships.
- Ambiguously Bi: Any male narrator in her work has a strong chance of at least experimenting with one of the other, more distinctive male characters.
- The Beautiful Elite: Portrayed as a theme in both The Secret History and The Goldfinch, in both of which it's deconstructed to different extents.
- Bishōnen: The descriptions of most of her major male characters, with aspects of All Girls Want Bad Boys factored in.
- Black and Gray Morality: There are bad people, and then there are accomplices to bad people, and then there are good people who become bad out of callousness, despair or angst.
- Byronic Hero: An obsession of her works, though usually a character observed by or friends with the protagonist rather than the protagonist himself.
- Death Is Such an Odd Thing: The fundamental core of a Donna Tartt novel, as all three of her works attest.
- Deconstructor Fleet: While her works are in many ways an open Romanticist love letter to the deepest depths of human passion, they are also focused on the dire consequences of obsession and self-destruction.
- Despair Event Horizon: It's hard to imagine a novel of hers without at least one.
- Fish out of Water: The feeling of being one is lovingly described by her main protagonists.
- Functional Addict: A frequent fate of her protagonists by the end of the story.
- Karma Houdini: Her protagonists usually get away with things they shouldn't, but often at a high emotional cost.
- Likable Villain: Mr. Silver in The Goldfinch, and Henry in The Secret History.
- Plot-Triggering Death: The farmer in The Secret History; Robin Dufresnes in The Little Friend; Audrey Decker and Welty Blackwell in The Goldfinch.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: In both The Secret History and The Goldfinch, at least one friend of the narrator's tends toward a degree of bullish irreverence.
- Romanticism: Every one of her themes is in keeping with it.
- Scenery Porn: Ranging from the lovingly described mountains of Vermont to the more elaborate areas of a university, to a New York art museum, to the Nevada desert....
- Smoking Is Cool: Any protagonist in a Donna Tartt novel over the age of 13 seems to smoke and drink all the time.
- Trauma Conga Line: Would it be a Donna Tartt novel otherwise?