The Secret Queerstory: Giorgi’s “The Secret History” Reflections Masterpost Part 1/2
The Secret Queerstory: Reading My Favorite Anime, or, Giorgi’s “The Secret History” Reflections Masterpost [Part One of Two]
[For those of you who haven’t read this segment before, “Reading My Favorite Anime” is our contributor Giorgi’s column about zir favorite books.
When ze calls these books “anime,” ze means that, while they present themselves as (and are in fact!) serious literature, their plots often revolve around interpersonal drama, and are punctuated by maudlin displays of emotion at an intensity that is sometimes comical—mirroring the hallmarks of an anime.
When ze reads Great Literature™ as anime, ze is bringing a sense of fun and irreverence to serious material in a way that makes zir feel less like zir life is just one long road to the grave with no meaning. Just let zir have this.]
I have a document on my computer filled with notes for a TV adaptation of The Secret History. It’s called “The Secret ‘The Secret History’ History." It’s a very full document, because whenever I wend my way back through this wicked world to my copy of Donna Tartt’s masterful debut, the world it paints for me is so vivid that when I make these notes it feels like I’m simply taking dictation—though from God, like Mozart, or from something more primordial and dark, I am left to guess.
After all, could it possibly be the Christian God that rules The Secret History, or mustn’t it be the wild gods of the forests and seas, of the Underworld and Olympus, that can imbue a human with the power to tell its story?
Welcome to The Secret History, my favorite anime.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure: The Secret History is a baroque, austere tale of a student’s initiation into a glamorous clique of intellectuals at his new college. By glamorous, I mean that they seem glamorous from afar, but then are revealed to be anime characters. The Secret History starts out with a Mean Girls beginning, develops into a Dead Poet’s Society middle, and escalates to a full-on American Psycho ending. If those three movies aren’t great literature, I don’t know what is.
The cult clique our main character Richard joins is centered around the Classics major at the college he has just transferred to. The thing about the Classics department is that there are only five students in it, and one professor, who doesn’t let anyone join unless they’re down to drop their whole schedules so they can take only classes on Latin and ancient Greek—classes that are all taught by himself.
The professor’s name is Julian, and he’s kind of like Gendo from Evangelion, crossed with Viktor from Yuri on Ice. And then he’s also like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, I guess.
Each member of The Secret History’s “classics plastics,” as I call them, is extra in a different way. There’s Bunny, that friend who always eats all your food and threatens to tell other people that you killed a guy; Henry, the tall, dark and handsome one who’s secretly always down for a bacchanalia or a murder, Camilla, the depressive pixie dream girl, Charles, the dashingly alcoholic human disaster, and Francis, the smol gay ginger.
In befriending these five train wreck human beings, Richard is stumbling into a web of tensions and secrets that will only escalate with his arrival. In their studies of the ancients, the Classics Plastics have been doing, shall we say, an extracurricular project, of an occult nature.
They also have their own internal conflicts, the most major being a secret Bunny is holding over the rest of the group—which leads to the flash-forward in The Secret History’s prologue, where we witness Richard and the rest of the group murder Bunny. You’ll find that Bunny is the most annoying character in the book, though, so when you get to the part where he dies you’ll be glad.
Oh, I just realized that this book is a lot like Heathers, too. I suppose Bunny would be the lead Heather, Henry would be Veronica, Camilla would be Heath Ledger, Richard would be the dumb Heather, and then Charles could be the other Heather. Hmmm. Maybe.
Whichever of its characters correspond to which in Heathers, The Secret History alternates between paragraphs of meditation on things like beauty or death, and scenes of melodrama between the often-drunk and always-extra members of Richard’s new friend group. If you like academia, melancholia, and bacchanalia, The Secret History is one to put on your list.
NOW!! If you’re down to read The Secret History, read away. THEN!! Here you can read PART TWO of my plot-spoilery musings about the finer points of this anime.