Friday, April 13, 2012

Interview with Anne Tyler

Good Reads - April, 2012

Anne TylerAnne Tyler's body of work, spanning 19 titles and almost 50 years, is rich with sharply observed characters and the everyday details of middle-class American life. Her first book, If Morning Ever Comes, was published in 1964 (though Tyler tells Goodreads that she'd rather you not read her early efforts). The now best-selling and much-decorated author often uses her long-term home of Baltimore, Maryland, as the setting of her novels, including her 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winner Breathing Lessons and her best-known work, The Accidental Tourist. Tyler's latest novel, The Beginner's Goodbye, also takes place there. The new work delves into the grief of Aaron, a middle-aged self-help guide publisher whose wife dies when a tree falls onto their house. He begins seeing her around town and has conversations with her as he learns to move on. Tyler spoke with Goodreads about the many characters lurking in her subconscious and the possibility of an afterlife.

Goodreads: You are noted for your skill in writing character-driven novels. Do you consider yourself a student of human behavior? When working on character, do you turn to people watching or daydreaming—looking outward or inward for inspiration?

Anne Tyler: I figure we're almost all students of human behavior. That's how we get along in the world—by trying to make sense of the people we have to deal with.

When I'm working on character, I search my memory for telltale traits or gestures that I may have noticed in some random passerby. For instance, the other day I met a delightfully scatterbrained woman who was wearing a plastic bracelet the size of a giant bagel. When she tried to write a note, her bracelet was so thick that her fingers couldn't reach the pad of paper she was resting her wrist on. I loved that; I thought it said reams about her.

GR: Goodreads member Catherine writes, "I am interested in the seed that initiates a new book. For example, Alice Munro has said that the seed for her stories often is an image, say the image of a man with an ax coming over a hill. What tends to be the starting point for your novels? Can you talk about the seed for The Beginner's Goodbye?"

AT: I have known a book to start with an image, certainly, or an overheard remark. With The Beginner's Goodbye, the remark was one I heard only in my imagination. I heard a man's voice speaking the book's first sentence: "The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead..." I found the sentence baffling and decided to ignore it. But then a while later, the same man announced that he had a few handicaps. And a while after that, he added that he also had a little speech problem. That's when I began to pay attention.
I know how insane it sounds to talk about characters speaking to me. I suppose it's really my subconscious letting thoughts surface that I didn't know I was thinking.

1 comment:

(sweetlittle)librarygirl said...

LOVE her!!! Best ever.