My Anne Tyler Moment, by Jennie Walters
|Christchurch College, Oxford|
For other Anne Tyler fans, here are a few more mundane facts I learned about her from the interview:
She's an obsessive reviser. She has a box file of index cards with character notes and situations and when she's starting a novel, she sits with these cards and a blank sheet of paper for a month (always a month) before she starts to write. She writes her first draft in longhand, then types the novel on to a computer, expanding every paragraph ('like knitting a novel'). She then prints it out and revises it all over again in longhand. She records this revised draft on to a tape which she reads aloud, in front of her computer screen, correcting the computerised version and making even more revisions as she goes along. She loves being in the middle of a novel, rather than beginning or end.
Her favourite character is Ezra, from 'Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant', which is her favourite book.
She doesn't want to do too much promotion because she feels there's a writing elf inside her which goes into a sulk if she talks too much.
She has two poems on the wall of her study, one by John Updike on writing and 'Walking to Sleep' by Richard Wilbur, which begins:
'As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there,
Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses,
Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind.
Something will come to you.'
She's had the same ('non-intrusive') editor for all of her books, who's just retired.
She has completed all these laborious writing and revising steps for one novel and then not released it for publication, on the advice of her agent.
She has no life beyond writing.
I needn't have worried - I liked Anne Tyler tremendously. If I hadn't, I would still love her books, but how could the person who'd written them be anything other than thoughtful, humane, wise and compassionate? I'll remember this weekend for a long time. It's been perfect: on Saturday, Gavin Stamp talking about Lutyens country houses and William Boyd discussing his new novel, then overnight with an old and dear friend in her cottage (complete with Lab in front of the Aga - see above) in the idyllic village of Blewbury (see below); on Sunday, Oxford sparkling in the sunshine - and my Anne Tyler moment. Who could ask for anything more....
Have you met your literary idol? And if so, how was it for you?
Thanks for the post, I'll have to rectify my ignorance of Anne Tyler by checking her out! It makes me wonder (and worry) how many of US live up to (or down to)the expectations of our readers... the virtual world can protect us a lot in that respect.
Talking about my books is hard for me, too, because:
(a) it's always so long after the initial excitement of the writing, and I've often forgotten the finer points of the plot,
and (b) I'm usually in the middle of something completely different (that I daren't talk about, because if I do I know I won't want to finish writing it!)
But lovely that you have met your idol, and I do love that cottage...
I'm lucky enough to have met, eaten and/or got drunk with most of my literary idols - one of the rewards of all the hard work that goes into many years of organising conventions.
I once saw (but never met!) Robert Graves, disappearing into the distance in Krakow, of all places, with a beautiful young man on his arm...
What an interesting post this is - fascinating to hear and to think about these things.