50-Year Writing Career: A Look at Anne Tyler: Background information when reading A Spool of Blue Thread

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A Spool of Blue Thread

by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler X
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 368 pages
    Apr 2016, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan
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About this Book

50-Year Writing Career: A Look at Anne Tyler

This article relates to A Spool of Blue Thread

Print Review

Anne TylerIn 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 2015 interview in the New York Times.

Anne Tyler, courtesy of Goodreads

Filed under Books and Authors

Article by Davida Chazan

This "beyond the book article" relates to A Spool of Blue Thread. It originally ran in February 2015 and has been updated for the April 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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