6th February 2015
The word Numen literally means "a nod of the head." And that is what the Pulitzer board did in the direction of Donna Tartt last year for her book "Goldfinch," and what I would also like to do, because I have just finished her book, and it deserves a nod of the head. Not in the way Harding's "Tinkers" did and does, because that prize was awarded for the sheer beauty of the prose. Tartt's book relies more on plot than poetry, but the dialogue is top-notch and the narrative certainly does compel you along. I'm not sure about it's ultimate message, which seems to be that life is a cesspool with only rare moments of illumination, because I see life as something a little more sun-lit in its own right. I do like her Artful Dodger, Boris - he's the Zorba of this book, although he is an alcoholic and drug addict, and I'm not sure you get to celebrate life through a character that it is zoned out for much of it.
The narrative, of course, centres around The Goldfinch painted by Fabritius in 1654. It is one of those numinous revelations that for Tartt shine out of the cesspool.
Numen in its common usage, of course, refers to a sort of other-wordly presence encountered in the everyday. A God nod. An epiphany, I suppose. It is these encounters that provide the spark for our artistic endeavours. Of course, it doesn't really matter what it is - it could be a piece of string. It could be a red wheel barrow or a crow.
It's not the object of the numinous experience that matters, but the space in which we encounter it. I'm avoiding the word "religious" to describe these moments here, but I still maintain that the artistic and the religious experience are just different sons of the same mother. The sexual is another sibling in that family.
Publishing news: I am over the first round of hurdles with Druid Hill, the sequel to Veil of Time. This round was for my agent, Esmond. I did one final sweep of the novel and it seemed to pass muster, so we're off with it to Abby, my editor at Simon and Schuster (who has first right of refusal, as per my contract for VOT.) Let's hope we get a nod of the head.