Interview with Donna Tartt (excerpt)
Donna Tartt: This is a difficult question because the germ of this book began so long ago—20 years ago, with a long stay in Amsterdam. Rather than any specific story about art crime, I was more interested in a dark Amsterdam mood, a dark New York mood—and art seemed to be the tie between those two cities. As far as I remember, it wasn’t really a conscious decision to take the art world as a subject but something that just seemed to spring organically from place. The destruction of [Afghanistan’s] great Buddhas at Bamiyan [destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban] was also something that bothered me greatly, and though I can’t say how that affected my decision to write about crime in the context of art, I know that it did.
GR: How did you go about researching it?
DT: I did most of my research for this book in the Allen Room of the New York Public Library—although when people ask me about “research,” it always strikes me as really funny, because really I’m only reading about things I enjoy and would probably be reading about anyway even if I wasn’t writing a book (such as Dutch art and antique furniture). Even the side things I had to learn about along the way turned out to be interesting. Though I hate team sports and have never in my life willingly watched a football game from start to finish, I taught myself about sports betting from a library book—well enough that I did all right in the football pools at my local bar last fall, and this without ever watching a game. Basically I can learn almost anything from a library book.
GR: Goodreads member Sean Frisco asks, “As you researched NYC’s art underworld for The Goldfinch, what surprised you about that cutthroat black market?”
DT: I suppose the most disheartening statistic I learned was that so few stolen paintings are ever recovered. It’s a miracle when they resurface—and when they do, they’re often damaged from being poorly kept.
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