Donna Tartt (born December 23, 1963) is a Pulitzer-Prize winning American Neo-Romanticist author 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 Bret Easton Ellis and Jonathan Lethem.
In interviews, 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 literary fiction's equivalent of The Smiths.
- The Secret History (1992): The novel follows the adventures of a few 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.
- The Little Friend (2002): Insufferable Genius Harriet tries to solve the mysterious death of her 9-year-old brother some 12 years after the fact.
- The Goldfinch (2013): The novel tracks the travails of Theo Decker from adolescence into early adulthood as he struggles to come to terms with a traumatic event that killed his mother, introduced him to his true love, and led him to steal a priceless painting. Won a Pulitzer Prize and received a film adaptation in 2019.
- Reclusive Artist: She gives few interviews. She's not on social media.2021 interview: In the mid 2000s, I was in India and everyone was talking about social media. It was the first I'd heard of it — it was so long ago that MySpace was the thing — and it sounded interesting. But Becky Swift, writer Margaret Drabble's daughter, who was at my table during a dinner, said to me: "Donna, you must not do this, trust me when I say you must never, ever get involved in social media, it dumbs down everything, it will cut into your writing and reading time in ways you can't imagine. Promise me you'll never touch it." And I never have. Becky died far too young, and I wonder if she realized quite what a gift she gave me across the table that night.
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.
- 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.
- Pretty Boy: The descriptions of most of her major male characters, with aspects of All Girls Want Bad Boys factored in.
- 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?