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Donna Tartt (born December 23, 1963) is an American writer, the author of the novels The Secret History (1992), The Little Friend (2002), and The Goldfinch (2013). Tartt won the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend in 2003 and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Goldfinch in 2014. She was included in the list of the "100 Most Influential People" compiled by Time magazine in 2014.
Life and career
Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta, and raised in the nearby town of Grenada.
She enrolled in the University of Mississippi in 1981, and her writing caught the attention of Willie Morris when she was a freshman. Following a recommendation from Morris, Barry Hannah, then an Ole Miss writer-in-residence, admitted the eighteen-year-old Tartt into his graduate course on the short story. "She was deeply literary," said Hannah. "Just a rare genius, really. A literary star."
Following the suggestion of Morris and others, she transferred to Bennington College in 1982, where she was friends with fellow students Bret Easton Ellis, Jill Eisenstadt, and Jonathan Lethem. At Bennington she studied classics with Claude Fredericks. She dated Ellis for a while after they shared their works in progress, The Secret History and Less Than Zero, respectively.
In 2002, Tartt was reportedly working on a retelling of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus for the Canongate Myth Series, a series of novellas in which ancient myths are reimagined and rewritten by contemporary authors. In 2006, Tartt's short story "The Ambush" was included in the Best American Short Stories 2006.
Tartt is a convert to Catholicism and contributed an essay, "The spirit and writing in a secular world", to the 2000 book The Novel, Spirituality and Modern Culture. In her essay Tartt wrote that "...faith is vital in the process of making my work and in the reasons I am driven to make it", but also warned of the danger of writers who impose their beliefs or convictions on their novels. She wrote that writers should "shy from asserting those convictions directly in their work".
Style and literary themes
Tartt has largely written in neo-romanticism-inflected prose that borrows heavily from the stylings of nineteenth-century literature. This prose style is uncommon in contemporary American literary fiction, particularly with the tendency of fiction writers and literary critics to favor a briefer, more to-the-point prose style. Her prose style stands in stark contrast to that of her former classmate Bret Easton Ellis, whose novel The Rules of Attraction incorporates a similar setting and has some overlap in character types and themes but is written in a curt, minimalist style.
A number of recurring literary themes occur in Tartt's novels, including those related to social class and social stratification, guilt, and aesthetic beauty.