content by

Francesco Dimitri

Learning Fantasy from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History

Great books, like possessed people, speak in many voices. My favourite books are not about one thing: they are large (not necessarily long) and contain multitudes. Writers are guides to other worlds, and the guides I am glad to follow are smart enough to show me the coolest sights, but not so chatty as to silence my own thoughts with their talk. The ideal story will give me some anchors—I don’t think you can love Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber if you have no interest at all in sex and gender—while aiming for the kind of fuzzy beauty which you glimpse in dreams.

When I got to the last page of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, I was in love. Here was a book which gave me magic as an anchor (not only magic—it was large, and contained multitudes), and talked about it with rare clarity. I had just read a one-in-a-million kind of book, and I couldn’t wait to share my thoughts with the world.

The world disagreed.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

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