Anne Tyler's 50 Year Writing Career
In March 2013, Anne Tyler announced the title of her upcoming novel in an interview with the BBC. She also noted that she didn't want to finish another novel - not even this one. She described the book as a "sprawling family saga," which starts with the present generation and then moves back, one generation at a time. Fortunately, she realized she was only interested in three generations. Before this revelation, she figured A Spool of Blue Thread could go on long enough that she might die before its publication! That way she wouldn't have the hassle of the editing, polishing, promoting and worrying if the book was any good or not.
This sounds like the pressure of thinking up something new and original, combined with her obvious penchant for perfectionism, was finally getting to her. This also sounds like Tyler's 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, could very well be her last. Of course, maybe she'll change her mind. If not, perhaps now is the time to think about this much-beloved author and her 50-year writing career.
The popularity of Tyler's books is due to her perfect combination of subject matter and story-telling artistry. She discusses this in an interview on Goodreads, noting, " we're almost all students of human behavior." In this, Tyler is not only a master; she has a virtual Ph.D. as well. Tyler's keen eye and ear for the types of things that make ordinary people just flawed enough to be interesting is predominant in all of her novels. She speaks to readers who want fictional looks at the real world, the world in which we actually live. However, she knows how to show that despite the apparent mundanity in everyday life there are remarkable things to celebrate.
Some people might say that her characters make us feel better about ourselves, because they are worse off than we are. While there is something to this, it may also be that we see someone in our lives, or even ourselves, in her characters. The downside to that is that, for some, Tyler's characters might hit a bit too close to home for comfort. Thankfully, Tyler paints these characters with enough humor to keep her underlying insights from becoming hurtful. It is almost as if Tyler writes each character with a wink and a nod, while inviting us to read between the lines - if we dare. If we do dare, we might find that what's between those lines is a mirror, and what we'll see in our reflections is far from perfect.
In addition to the depth of understanding Tyler brings to her characters, what keeps her novels from being oppressively dramatic is that injection of humor. Another element is her deceptively easy sounding but elegant prose. Add to this her faculty for natural sounding dialogue and you get stories that entice, enchant and enhance readers' overall experience, and perhaps their way of looking at their own worlds, as well. It is therefore no surprise that Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Fans of Tyler's works will be celebrating her 50 years of writing and reveling in her 20th novel, while at the same time hoping that they haven't seen the last of her extraordinary talent.
If you want to get to know Anne Tyler a little better, try this February 5th, 2015 interview in the New York Times.
Anne Tyler, courtesy of Goodreads
This article first ran as the "beyond the book" article for Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread
This biography was last updated on 03/30/2015.
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An Interview With Anne Tyler About Patchwork Planet
protagonist in this novel, Barnaby Gaitlin, has been described as an average,
ordinary man. Is this how you would describe him?
I think Barnaby is average and ordinary only to the extent that most people are average and ordinary--that is, not very, if you look carefully enough.
Barnaby is, among other things, a man struggling to cast off the weight of his past. How successful is he, and indeed any of us, in doing so?
I do believe that Barnaby is at least largely successful in getting out from under the weight of his past--that's where the plot derives its movement.
At the close of this novel, we are left wondering just exactly who is Barnaby's angel. How would you answer this question?
Barnaby has not just one but many angels--the network of people he lives among who see him for the good man he is and wish him well and do what they can to ease his life.
You delightfully skewer class pretensions in this novel, most notably in the form of Barnaby's mother, Margot, and explore the cost and meaning of class mobility in America. Why is this such a central theme in your work?
I've always enjoyed studying the small clues ...
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