bennington college

It’s infrequent to find a really good plot turn in a book of less than 40 pages. It’s just hard to have much dynamic built up in one direction to be able to accomplish that turn, without having the turn feel contrived. And so it’s to Gilman’s absolute credit that she manages to do so. The abrupt shift nearly caught me off-guard, as I was expecting a dramatic climax, but definitely not in the direction it was taken. And then reviewing the plot a second time, from a feminist standpoint, brought out the wonderful symbolism of the entire book, particularly the last sequences. A quick but very interesting read.

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The Potency of Place: Donna Tartt’s Graduation Speech

1986 Commencement Program

On June 14, 1986, Donna Tartt graduated from Bennington College. It was a fabled time for writers at the school; the graduating class of 106 that year included not only Tartt but also Bret Easton Ellis, and they would have been joined by Jonathan Lethem if he hadn’t withdrawn as a sophomore. The novelist Jill Eisenstadt had graduated the year before and was already working on her first novel From Rockaway, and poet Reginald Shepherd would graduate in 1988. And it wasn’t just the writers who would go on to leave their mark: the avant-garde composer Jonathan Bepler was among the six music students who graduated with Tartt and Ellis in ‘86, and gallerist Matthew Marks had walked with Eisenstadt in ’85.

Donna Tartt was chosen as the student speaker for her class by a committee of fellow students. This was six years before the publication of Donna Tartt’s debut novel, The Secret History, and twenty-eight years before her best-selling third novel, The Goldfinch, won the Pulitzer Prize. This was Donna Tartt before her books were stacked at the front of independent bookstores, before a printer was named after her in Crossett Library, the same building in which she undoubtedly passed many of her hours as a student. In June of 1986, Donna Tartt was just another graduating senior on the brink of the broader world.

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