Not a book review, but something noticed after Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Or, What Reading a Book Does, Chapter 35: The Tangential.
Taking too much from the blurbs, I found an obtuse take on what “relentlessly erudite” means (Vanity Fair). The novel’s characters are precocious Greek students at fictional Hampden College, and they are conversant in the classics. Literally – Greek, however sloppily inflected, allows them to wonder aloud to each other when in mixed company: “Always, previously, in an emergency we could throw out something in Greek, under the guise of an aphorism or quotation.” (501) Like this:
“But rights are for living men, not for the dead.”
“Oιμoι,” he said, shaking his head. “Oh, dear. No. No.”
Erudite: Having or showing great knowledge or learning.
In fiction, I’m now looking for something else, something far more valuable, examples of emotional erudition:
How do characters validate, or invalidate, one another’s feelings?
Are the characters reading each other’s (fictional) expressions?
Are they self-aware, or mindful?
How important is it to an author to describe a character’s emotional kaleidoscope?
Kinds of reading are given such short shrift. This one helps to avoid reading about Elaborate Architectures of Things That are Probably Beside the Point.
P.S. The Secret History of the Book Jacket of The Secret History.