by Bob Minzesheimer)
For someone who writes long novels – The Goldfinch, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction Monday, is 784 pages – Donna Tartt is a woman of few words, at least on the phone.
From her desk at her home in Prince Edward County, Va., Tartt said she was "very happy and very delighted" to win her first major literary prize.
"And surprised," she adds.
"Wouldn't you be surprised?" she asks.
The Goldfinch is somewhat of a rarity - a best seller before winning the Pulitzer. The novel landed on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list at No. 5 last October and has stayed in the top 30 for the past 24 weeks.
It also was one of USA TODAY's "10 books we loved reading" in 2013. And in a 4-star (out of four) review for USA TODAY, Kevin Nance called the novel a "massively entertaining, darkly funny new book, that goes a long way toward explaining why its author is finally securing her place alongside the greatest American novelists of the past half-century, including John Updike, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison and that other latter-day Dickensian, John Irving."
Tartt, 50, has been a literary celebrity since the publication of The Secret History, her 524-page 1992 debut novel about a pack of murderous classics scholars at a New England College.
That was followed in 2002 by The Little Friend, a 576-page mystery about a young Southern girl dealing with the long-unexplained death of her brother.
But she's not a writer who likes to do many interviews. "It feels strange to be talking on the phone from my desk where I do a lot of my writing," she said. "Usually, I keep the phone away from me when I'm working."
The Goldfinch, her third novel, took 11 years to finish for a simple reason, she said -- "It's a long book."
It's the story of young Theo Decker, who loses his mother in a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then absconds with a precious painting -- The Goldfinch by Fabritius.
Will having the words "Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist" attached to her name change anything?
Pulitzer prize winning author of "The Goldfinch," Donna Tartt(Photo: © Beowulf Sheehan)
She ducks the question. "I'm just happy and delighted."
She's at work on another novel but is suspicious about discussing it "even with my friends" before it's finished.
Will it take 11 years like The Goldfinch?
And how did she plan to celebrate the Pulitzer?
"I don't know. I'm sure I'll think of something. The phone has been ringing off the hook."