Thursday 27 February 2014


Born on this day in 1622 was Rembrandt's most gifted pupil, Carel Fabritius, best known for his wonderful little painting of a goldfinch, one of the very few of his works that survive. I've mentioned Fabritius before, in the context of his sadly early death, but since then (as all the world surely knows) Donna Tartt has published her widely acclaimed novel The Goldfinch, which has Fabritius's picture at its centre (if it can be said to have a centre).
 When The Goldfinch came out, I was startled to hear one of the critics on (I think) Saturday Review admit to having found its 800-odd pages something of a slog, and even to suggest that it was perhaps a little repetitive, a tad prolix, a touch disorganised. Well well, I thought, that's something you don't often hear said in culturally correct circles about an otherwise widely acclaimed new novel - this one must be a real stinker. Sure enough, it then turned up as Radio 4's Book at Bedtime, and I must report that, even reduced to a mere 10 quarter-hour episodes, it became as it went on (after an admittedly arresting start) ever more rambling, uninvolving, repetitive and grindingly, mind-numbingly tedious. I dread to imagine what it must be like to read - or attempt to read - the novel at full length. Some of the 1-star reviews on Amazon, I fancy, give a pretty good idea...
 But anyway, the upside was that publication of Tartt's doorstop coincided with a Dutch art exhibition at the Frick, to which many thousands flocked to feast their eyes on Fabritius's masterpiece, The Goldfinch.


  1. Wonderful painting Nige. We get lots on our niger seeds in the front garden.

  2. Oh yes they love those don't they - beautiful birds, and they're now more abundant than sparrows down my way.

  3. I read The Secret History recently, the only Tartt I've attempted. I got to the end, at which point I thought, that was ok, but wasn't it about 90% too long?