While many of us have a hard time adjusting to staying at home and avoiding social contact, Anne Tyler prefers this.
“I need to be alone,” one of America’s greatest writers told the BBC. “I feel exhausted if I’ve been in a group for a long time. “
Loneliness has been at the heart of his writing career, which spans more than half a century.
“You could almost say that I live a quarantined life anyway. “
The 78-year-old author has sold more than 11 million books and has been compared to Jane Austen.
Nick Hornby, meanwhile, said she was his favorite writer.
However, all this was achieved with much noise and fanfare. She keeps a low profile and rarely gives interviews or appears in literary festivals.
She says she didn’t think her life in the US city of Baltimore would be much changed by the coronavirus pandemic, but admits “it’s different” now.
“It’s very sad to walk in the woods every morning, it’s where schoolchildren walk to go to school and see no children.
“We are not supposed to interfere in any way,” she adds. “I still have these two friends who come for” vinotherapy “, as we call it, and I just canceled them.”
But don’t expect the virus – or its impact – to appear in, or even after, his next novel. The outside world does not tend to impose itself in its books.
“It would derail the little private story I’m trying to tell,” she says. “I think it would really be a mistake on my part to suddenly start talking about the coronavirus at this point in one of my books. “
“I am very much in favor of letting things age before I write about them. In other words, I never wrote about the World Trade Center, you know, and I haven’t read any good books on it, frankly. But I think in 20 years they might have a good one. ”
In total, Tyler wrote 23 novels. Almost all of them are located in Baltimore, where she has lived since 1967.
The Accidental Tourist became a Hollywood film in 1988 with William Hurt, Geena Davis and Kathleen Turner. She won the Pulitzer Prize the following year for breathing lessons; and A spool of blue thread was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2015.
Her main theme is family and in all of her books she focuses on ordinary people who live banal lives.
Her latest novel, Redhead By The Side Of The Road, is no different. It tells the story of a middle-aged handyman, “a common man” who is stuck in a rut.
She says she feels “comfortable” writing from a male perspective.
“I think it is because I had such a good father and three brothers and two grandfathers that I all love very much, and I feel very comfortable understanding what a man might think of Something. “
Which begs the question of whether there should ever be limits to an author’s imagination?
Recently, American Dirt, a novel by white American writer Jeanine Cummins, written from the perspective of a Mexican migrant, sparked a debate on cultural appropriation in literature. The Cummins publisher canceled his book tour, fearing violence, because the feelings were so high.
Anne Tyler insists that Cummins – and other writers – “have the right to try.”
“The purpose of writing for me has been to live other lives. So of course, I would like to take over a whole bunch of lives that I have not lived. “
But when asked if there was something she wouldn’t write, Tyler said “yes” in a surprising way.
“I think I would be very presumptuous to write from the point of view of, say, a city center, an African American, because I think there is so much that I would be wrong.
“I think I would have the right to do it if I wanted to but I think
I would have come out of the literary world from someone who was black and said, “Boy, did you really screw up there, you know? ”
Tyler likes to stick with what she knows best. She was said to be writing essentially the same book, exploring the lives of middle class Americans over and over again.
“It’s fair,” she said, laughing. “I always say when I start a book,” this one is going to be different “.
“Halfway there, I say,” Oh boy, it’s the same book again. “
“But I’m very interested in the things that sometimes seem trivial and how there are things underneath that mean more.”
“I mean, it’s almost a challenge to have someone wash the dishes and find something to say about it that would mean more than just washing the dishes.” “
She says she can’t consider quitting writing even if “the world doesn’t need another of my books,” explaining, “I don’t have a hobby. And it really makes me happy to write. So that’s what I still do. “
She even has an idea ready for her next novel. “Surprise, surprise. This is a family in Baltimore, “she says with a laugh.
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