Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A List of Books Mentioned in The Secret History by Donna Tartt

In my first article on The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I mentioned how the book not only cultivates a love of learning, but is also full of intertextuality; in other words, mentions of other books and authors. 

Some of my favourite books are in fact 'books about books' - The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Goldfinch, The Silver Linings Playbook - and I thought it could be interesting to explore the books mentioned in a bit more detail. 

When I could no longer concentrate on Greek and the alphabet began to transmute itself into incoherent triangles and pitchforks, I read The Great Gatsby. It is one of my favourite books and I had taken it out of the library in hopes that it would cheer me up; of course, it only made me feel worse, since in my own humorless state I failed to see anything except what I construed as certain tragic similarities between Gatsby and myself.

- Richard on insomnia and The Great Gatsby

Books Mentioned in The Secret History


Poetics by Aristotle
Agamemnon by Aeschylus
Inferno by Dante
The Iliad by Homer
The Bacchae by Euripedes
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot
Paradise Lost by John Milton
The Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (alongside other mentions of Sherlock Holmes)
Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Greeks and the Irrational by E.R. Dodds
The Republic by Plato
The Aeneid by Virgil
The Superman comic
The Upanishads
"With Rue My Heart is Laden" by A.E. Housman
"Lycidas" by John Milton
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Lord Alfred Tennyson
"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae
The New Testament
Anthony Janson's History of Art
"Why so pale and wan fond lover?" by Sir John Suckling
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson
The Revenger's Tragedy by Cyril Tourneur (now attributed to Thomas Middleton)
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Terence - Andria ("Hinc illae lacrimae, hence those tears)
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

It was I killed the old pawnbroker woman and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them.

- A random quotation from Crime and Punishment, without citation, in The Secret History

Other Authors Mentioned

Plotinus
Plato
Parmenides
Pliny
John Donne
John Ford
Marcel Proust
Christopher Marlowe
George Orwell
P.G. Wodehouse 
Philip K. Dick
Raymond Chandler
Charles Dickens
Leo Tolstoy

He was pleased, however obscurely, with the aesthetics of the thing..."Like something from Tolstoy, isn't it?" he remarked.

- Henry making a strange, perhaps not entirely accurate, comparison to Tolstoy

Have you read and enjoyed The Secret History by Donna Tartt? Alternatively, what other 'books about books' are favourites of yours?



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9 comments:

bellezza said...

The Secret History is one of my top four favorite books ever, and over read it several times. But while I knew there were many references of the ancients, to mythology, I never knew the titles and authors to this level of detail. Your posts are so interesting in how deeply they delve into something I think I already know.

Brian Joseph said...

This graphical representation is so cool!

I also love books that mention lots of books. I have not read The Secret History but I want to. It is really neat that The Superman comic is in there too!

Heidi'sbooks said...

I read The Goldfinch, but I see now that I need to read The Secret History too. Thanks for the breakdown. How did you do that?

Irene McKenna said...

I haven't read The Secret History yet, but it's on my list. Like you, I love books about books (metafiction?) :-)

tolstoytherapy said...

Yes, metafiction indeed! I'd certainly recommend The Secret History. So many people told me to read it, after putting it off for far too long I loved it!

tolstoytherapy said...

Heidi, I also read The Goldfinch first, and didn't get round to reading The Secret History until a month or so ago. It was superb, however! As I clearly have too much time (or too much attention to detail), I flicked through the book and made a note of every literary reference. I then worked out the frequency of this over every 20 pages, and created the graph in the post!

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you Brian, it was so much fun to do! I often find myself keeping note of books and authors mentioned within books, and so I thought it would be good to share it with other readers for once. The Superman reference was definitely one of my favourites!

tolstoytherapy said...

I should have listened to your words of wisdom and read it long ago! I can predict myself reading it many times to come to make up for this, however ;) I'm so glad you found my rather pedantic attention to detail useful! I really hope you're well and reading lots.


p.s. I love your blog's latest header and layout!

Camilla P said...

I plan to read "The Secret History" and this definitely intesified my interest :) Lots of great books and authors are mentioned!

Just one thing, though: why did you choose to mention the Inferno and then the Divine Comedy, as they were two different works? I see this done a lot in the Anglo-Saxon world, and it always makes me wonder why, since the Inferno is a part of the Divina Commedia. I'm curious :)