The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013)

Life’s shit and then you die. And dat’s dat, matey.

That’s why we have art. That’s Tartt’s take. Or rather Theo Decker’s, the protagonist in The Goldfinch.

Does this insight save you reading this one-kilo 771-pager? Nope. Because it’s a corker.

Which is why we’re going to mull over Albert Camus a mo. The Outsider‘s protagonist, Meursault, clocks that nothing matters in life and so he doesn’t care. About anything.

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The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger (1946)

Did you hear what I said? Well, huh, thanks for nothing.

I said, I’ve been staring myself out about what makes this book so fab.

Everyone goes on about the teenage angst ta-ra-ra and the awkwardness boom-de-ay and how Salinger nailed it.

He sure did, but what’s the magic potion?

It’s tone of voice, dumb-ass. Are you listening or not?

The oft-quoted first sentence and the ongoing ‘hero’ Holden’s perfectly pitched mosquito machine hum of woe and whinge have you often wanting to biff the bugger. But, damn it, he’s funny too.

Here’s the opener. (Tip: no peeking first, just read the next para aloud in one breath to get in the tone zone.)

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Middlemarch by George Elliot (1872)

Click, burrrrrzzz. Right, that’s the Fib Finder on.

Stand up all those who’ve haven’t read Middlemarch. Okay, okay, sit down – or they won’t be able to see at the back.

You should. It’s one of the best novels ever written. Why? How long you got?

Don’t panic. Let’s play with one word, for starters. Hang on, tongue, cheek – okay, I’m ready. A clue? Look at the title.

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The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (1953)

No, no, no – wait, wait, wait!

Just because you think you might’ve had enough Chandler doesn’t mean you’re not wrong.

Picture this. A beauty so elegant, so divine, she renders her beholder invisible.

The old bar waiter came drifting by and glanced softly at my weak Scotch and water. I shook my head and he bobbed his white thatch, and right then a dream walked in.

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Ava Gardner, The Secret Conversations by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner (2013)

Wish I’d been on a bender with Ava. Can see myself now, belly at the bar – ‘nother ‘alf, Ava?

Here she is on sex, booze and buying the farm.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1885)

Love this book. The best thing about it? Hmm. I’ll go for its pragmatism.

Here’s the boy Huck chewing over what Miss Watson, an old maid with goggles on, tells him about how to live his life, including praying and other worthy stuff.

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