Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Kennedy Connection

I just finished reading The Secret History. Or re-reading I should say since I have the vaguest memories of having read it years ago. And though I know we're already turning towards Kristen, I just had to jump in and write up a few impressions.

One thing that struck me was the Corcorans "mysterious affinity with the Kennedys". Perhaps especially with Ted Kennedy's death being all over the news this week, it jumped out at me that Bunny was described as being "built on the Ted Kennedy model, much heavier, with little round features being bunched in the middle of their faces."

I was thinking along those lines when I came back and read Otepoti's protest: "Also, these kids are supposed to be Catholic. Where's the guilt? Where is the acknowledgement that the Church has a mission to harness and control SPECIFICALLY the forces and passions which run amok here?"

It didn't quite strike me the same way perhaps precisely because here I am in Massachusetts, land of the Kennedys, where about 50% of the population claims a Catholic identity and yet for a majority of them their Catholicism is in name only and does not really form their moral compass. Here was Ted Kennedy known primarily as a Catholic statesman and yet a champion of the pro-abortion cause.

So I thought that perhaps Tartt had merely drawn the Kennedy connection with the wrong set of characters. It isn't the Protestant Corcorans who are most like the Kennedys to me but the Catholic members of the club who seem detached from the guidance that the Church should be providing in their lives in precisely the way I see so many Catholics here in New England.

On the other hand, I'm not entirely convinced that that is deliberate on Tartt's part. Because she kind of seems to bring up the Catholicism as a bit of color and then drops it again. It feels like it should play a larger part in the novel somehow.

1 comment:

Betty Duffy said...

I was interested in those days leading up to Bunny's murder when he was criticizing Catholics and everyone was sort of annoyed. And I think Tartt was trying to say that their Catholic identity was ingrained enough that they could still feel an insult about it. But I like the point about how there must be belief for ritual to work. I wonder why they never seemed to make that connection to their Catholicity. But it does seem like sort of a symptom of their youth that they would look away from the traditions in which they were raised. College, at least my experience of it, was all about trying on different hats.

The Kennedy connection is interesting. I think even here in the Midwest we don't have to look far to find excommunicated Catholics who still claim to speak for the faith. When I think of "terror," it's that kind of duplicity--and it's not beautiful at all (Need I mention Nancy Pelosi here?).