The Only Possible End: On Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History'

Episode 156 · October 25th, 2023 · 1 hr 32 mins

About this Episode

There are works of weird fiction that dispense their strangeness so subtly that many readers never pick up on it, books that allow themselves to be pass for mundane, the better to haunt us after we put them down. Donna Tartt's debut novel The Secret History, published in 1992, is such a work. On the surface, it is a brilliant, yet completely naturalistic, telling of the lead-up and aftermath of a murder. But The Secret History is also a work of the depths, and readers who go in seeking the Weird will find it lurking on every page. More than a masterpiece of psychological exploration, it is a story about the resurgence of the old god Dionysus, and a chronicle of fate; fate conceived, in the manner of the Ancient Greeks, as a cosmic force.

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Donna Tartt, The Secret History
Robertson Davies, Canadian novelist
Weird Studies, Episode 98 on Exotica
M. R. James, English author
Weird Studies, Episode 3 on “The White People”
E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational
Jean Cocteau, La Machine Infernale
John Crowley, Little, Big
Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Outrageous Okana”
Weird Studies, Episode 110 on “The Glass Bead Game”
Gabriel Faure, Nocturne No. 11
Pierre-André Boutang, L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze
Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch