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?