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Donna Tartt - Genius

'Her writing is so strange and so memorable, and she is such a beautiful person, that we know the book will be worth the trouble,' said one breathless chatroom fan, also calling herself Donna.

Like Salinger and Heller before her, Tartt has became a cult figure. Her quiet lifestyle, gamine looks and infrequent personal appearances have fuelled her reputation as a misanthropic genius.

Tartt is formidably well read, startlingly erudite; in the course of our conversation she quotes from Thomas Aquinas, Oscar Wilde, St Augustine and Henry James - not to mention the blues singer Mississippi John Hurt - all the while achieving the commendable feat of not appearing to be a show-off at all. And she doesn't mention the weather.

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