menu Language Is A Virus

Here's a little tip from Tartt: Slip the voice of experience into your favorite books

by Nancy Haught, The Oregonian, December 7, 2003

That Donna Tartt cut her teeth on great novels is no surprise to those who have read hers. The books she devoured as a child have marked her writing and are even reflected in the life of her latest heroine, Harriet.

But as important as reading has been to Tartt, being read to has been just as significant.

"My grandmother could read for eight hours straight," Tartt says. The older woman would nod off to sleep sometimes. "But we would say, 'Read, read,' and wake her up. She'd read well into the night."

Tartt reads her own work aloud, as she's writing and once she's finished. She has recorded audio versions of both of her novels. It took her 15 days to read the "The Secret History" out loud. "When I got to the end, people cheered," she says. She read aloud an abridged version of "The Little Friend."

She prefers to read her own work for audiotapes, to capture any inflections that her writing might have missed. But she's also a believer in reading out loud to children.

"To have been read to was a gift," she says. Nowadays, when she rereads "Treasure Island," she hears the prose in her grandmother's voice, even the boyish voice of Jim Hawkins.

"It's as if there is a tiny shadow of her voice pressed in between the pages of the book," Tartt says. "Tell your readers to read aloud to the children in their lives."

+ + + Comments + + +