Years ago, I remember watching the film ‘The Accidental Tourist‘ on TV. It was one of those films where nothing really happens, but I was still drawn in by the great characters, the slow atmosphere and the sweet dialogue.
A couple of years ago I read an article about the author Anne Tyler, whose book the film was based on. Some songwriters are described as ‘the songwriter’s songwriter’ (Ron Sexsmith, who I mentioned in a recent post, being one example). This article suggested that Anne Tyler was the ‘writer’s writer’, and that Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle had nominated her ‘the greatest living novelist writing in English’.
At that time it was bothering me that all of my favourite authors were male; John Steinbeck, Iain Rankin and Douglas Coupland being a few. So I bought the first book written by Anne Tyler, ‘If Morning Ever Comes’. I loved it and am now working my way through all of her books chronologically.
Just like the film I mentioned earlier, nothing huge and dramatic often happens in her books, but her writing is beautiful, her characters believable and her stories perfect for getting lost in.
“Tyler is an exquisite chronicler of the everyday. Home and homesickness are her central preoccupations; repression, guilt and estrangement her prevailing themes. Her characters are at once infuriating and endearing, conservative yet quietly eccentric. They are all unheroic survivors.”
– The Observer
Here’s an extract from ‘A Slipping Down Life’, her third novel, that particularly resonated with me:
The congregation commented on the sermon during each pause. ‘”It’s true. It’s true.” “Amen.” “Ain’t it so?” Like poor listeners in an ordinary conversation, they seemed likely to jump up at any moment and interrupt to tell experiences of their own. Only none of them did. Instead, Evie began to worry that it would be her herself who interrupted. Pauses between paragraphs grew longer and quieter, swelling until they might burst forth with her own voice saying something terrible.
Ordinary ministers picked a single, narrow theme for each sermon; Brother Hope tried to cover the world in an hour. Faced with the leap from one topic to another, from the evils of pre-teen dating to the inevitability of death and from there to the unnaturalness of working mothers, he kept taking a breath and hesitating, as if he worried about the abyss he had to span; and every time it happened Evie drew in her breath too. She was not certain what would burst forth. She gripped the chair in front of her, and the man who sat in it turned to show her the expectant, circular eyes of a baby.