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Anne Tyler


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#1 Farrell Fan

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Posted 28 March 2004 - 02:26 PM

The first Anne Tyler novel I read was "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" in 1982, arguably her "breakthrough book." She'd written eight novels before it, and fortunately they were all available in paperback, starting with her first, "If Morning Ever Comes" (1964). The novel she wrote just before "Homesick," "Morgan's Passing," became my favorite, but I really liked them all, loving her quirky characters as much as she obviously did. It was "as though Dickens were alive and well and living in Baltimore," one critic said. In that part of her career, she regularly inspired such lofty comparisons, often to Chekhov or Jane Austen.

Such comparisons are no longer apt, if they ever were. Anne Tyler is in a class by herself. There are now sixteen novels, and I've recently finished her latest, "The Amateur Marriage." I think it's her best. It covers sixty years in the lives of Pauline and Michael Anton, starting with their breathless meeting on the day after Pearl Harbor. The story is not told continuously -- each chapter starts several years after the preceding one -- but as always in a Tyler novel, you get to know the people inside and out. And you love both Pauline and Michael, even though they can't stand each other. It's no secret that this novel is the story of the deterioration and eventual breakup of their marriage, but Tyler doesn't stop with the Antons' divorce, going on to tell of their attempts to connect with other people. Earlier, in mid-novel, there is a remarkable trip away from Baltimore to sixties San Francisco where Pauline and Michael try to track down their beloved older
daughter years after she'd run away from home. As always, Tyler can be wickedly funny and sad at the same time.

Several years ago, Tyler replaced John Updike as my favorite contemporary writer. Although Updike's life has been thoroughly chronicled, by himself and others, Anne Tyler is extremely private. Her novels used to be "Copyright by Anne Tyler Modarressi," and for a short while I took pride in thinking that she was married to an Italian-American like me. I forget how I learned the name was Iranian. And in 1998, I was unprepared for the dedication in her fourteenth novel, "A Patchwork Planet.: It read simply "In loving memory of my husband, Taghi Modarressi." That time I felt teary even before I started the book.

#2 scoop

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 02:12 PM

Ah, Farrell Fan, how nice to learn we have one other thing in common besides loving Suzanne! :wub:

I forget how I discovered Anne Tyler, sometime in the 80s, but quickly gobbled up every novel. My favorites are some of the earliest ones -- Celestial Navigation, Earthly Possessions and Dinner at Homesick Restaurant. One scene that remains in my head after all these years is from (I think) Earthly Possessions where the two characters end up living in a house where everything -- sofas, chairs, etc. -- has a twin. What a great metaphor of two people uncompletely coupled. (Or at least that's how I read it!) I love her gentle, affectionate style of writing, such a switch from much of the current hip-and-ironic approach.

By happy coincidence, I moved to Baltimore about 17 years and it's been neat landing in the middle of what sometimes can seem like an Anne Tyler novel. The people haven't disappointed -- they're as oddball and endearing (well, SOME of them are! :P) as you might imagine. For some reason, though, I haven't read her in years, perhaps since Saint Maybe. Your review, though, makes me want to catch up again -- many thanks!

Oh, and one more thing -- I wouldn't gossip about our very private author, but this has been published in the papers: She's been involved the last couple of years with a restauranteur in Washington, and at one point wrote the funny little messages that were tucked into the cookies at his place. :D

#3 vagansmom

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 09:26 PM

I'm about a third of the way through "The Amateur Marriage". I got bogged down in it about a month ago however. I think it was my fault; I was going through a very scattered, inattentive period. I couldn't get into the novel whatsoever. It just didn't grab me but after reading what you've written, I'm willing to give it another try. It's the only Ann Tyler novel I've ever attempted to read.

#4 Nanatchka

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 06:28 AM

If you haven't read Anne Tyler, an excellent novel to start with is The Accidental Tourist. Such a wonderful book. Saint Maybe I found transcendent.


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