Anne Tyler’s work is reviewed in the Guardian prior to the release of her latest book, The Beginner’s Goodbye. A rare interview with Lisa Allardice also discusses the men in her novels and her writing process, and opens with a fine salute to The Wire, set as it is on home turf:
If you were to pop by Anne Tyler’s house in leafy Roland Park, Baltimore, on a Tuesday afternoon, you might interrupt her and five women friends deep into an episode of The Wire. They have seen all five seasons three times, and are discussing how soon they can begin a fourth viewing.
Nearly all of her 19 novels are set in Baltimore, where she has lived since 1967, and she has become so synonymous with the city that they run Tyler tourist trips. But fans will know that her fictional Maryland is a world away from that of detective Jimmy McNulty and co. “It is very true to Baltimore,” she says of the series. “It is a very pocketed city. We walk the same streets, the drug dealers are doing their business and I’m doing mine, and we almost don’t see each other.”
Now I have the perfect excuse to watch it all…though there is a note of caution in the middle of this excellent interview. I don’t think any writer should be interviewed until they’ve written at least fourteen substantial works. They are much more interesting when they’re further down the track.
Of course, the question pops up about the dearth of face space, and there is a very good answer:
“The simple answer is that any time I’ve spoken at length in an interview, I really can’t write afterwards for a long time. My mental image, which again is so fey, is that the Writing Elf has gone off in a sulk.” The secret of writing “is to pretend to yourself that no one will see it, ever”, an illusion which is shattered by talking about it. “We’ll see. When I get home again, how long will it take me to write? I’m curious to know. Will the Writing Elf understand?”
I’m not going to read all her novels (and I might not watch the whole of The Wire either), but this is a very good reason to resume an acquaintance with Nick Hornby’s inspiration. After all, they both like ordinary people.