Politics

How I'd Cast Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch"

I don’t like it when books I love are turned into movies. I'm a teenager at heart, which means I’m ferociously protective of the images and moods I conjure up while reading a book. I don’t like that imaged sullied by some development executive at Dreamworks trying to revive Katherine Heigel’s career. But for reasons I haven’t quite figured out, my affection for Donna Tartt’s work demands a cinematic treatment. It could simply be that Tarrt writes boys and men so well. And I like watching mischievous boys and craggy men acting on screen.

Or it could be for the very reason a friend of mine dislikes Tartt: “Her books read to me like a collection signals instead of characters,” he said to me when we nearly annulled our friendship over Tartt. “She writes about people as figures, as, like, a 14-year-old would see them—for example in The Secret History, the girl classicist is too lazy to do dishes but her dirty teacups symbolize that she is too purely intellectual to care about such mundane things, and this is supposed to make her more beautiful. Tartt’s just generally more interested in what a description means about class and status and intellect than in creating human characters.”

Donna Tartt

Hobie: This is the only part where I will accept a British actor (too often we overlook glorious but lesser-known American theater actors and throw in some British varsity player trying to break out of the BBC ghetto for Dignified Gentleman roles . This is unacceptable. Movies are like the only thing America makes anymore and I refuse to continue to subcontract our Oscar worthy roles to guys who graduated from Oxford! USA! USA!) simply because there are so few kindly, sophisticated, Dickensian patricians such as Hobie. I cast Jim Broadbent (from Hogwarts) with Albert Finney as an alternate.

Theo: I cannot picture our main character. I had the same problem with Richard in Tartt’s The Secret History. Part of what makes Tartt’s mystery so delectable (intriguing enough to get you through 500 plus pages) is how observant we believe her narrators, like Theo and Richard, to be. Her main characters have a sealed-in hermetic quality to their ponderous selves, and we can’t quite see their outsides. Like Orwell’s description of Henry Miller’s protagonist in the Tropic of Cancer, Theo is very much “inside the whale,” cocooned in the blubber of his own head. So, fuck it, I have no idea—throw Elijah Wood in there!

Natasha Vargas-Cooper is a journalist living in Los Angeles.