Monday, October 26, 2009

LIKE AN ANGEL SHE WRITES

One unforgettable day last year, Intsik, who used to read my blogs dropped in to say he thought I wrote like Anne Tyler does!!

That was enough to send me running to the bookstore to grab my first Tyler, The Accidental Tourist. I have since read Patchwork Planet, Dinner at Homesick Restaurant, The Ladder of Years, St. Maybe, Morgan’s Passing, Back When We Were Grown-ups, The Amateur Marriage, Digging into America, and Breathing Lessons.

There are at least seven more books I haven’t read in the Tyler list and I am not in a hurry to finish them all. When you like something very much, you don’t consume it in one gulp. You prolong the feast, relishing word by delicious word, phrase by succulent phrase, page by exquisite page.

When a book hits me hard, as a Tyler almost always does, I virtually go down on my knees at its end, kissing the book, blessing the author, and wishing her "Long Live!" that she may forever write and never stop filling and refilling the treasure trove of her works.

Tyler neither writes of heroic exploits, power plays and gothic romance, nor the ransom of kings. Her characters are never the rich and famous and powerful. Tyler novels are abou ordinary, slightly crazy people like you and me -- belonging to ordinary, slightly crazy families, and doing ordinary, slightly crazy things. But now and again, Tyler gives them tiny explosives to throw to jolt things out of kilter.

You do not get caught in the crossfire between good and evil in a Tyler story. There are no bad guys in the Tyler world. Neither are there irreproachable heroes. Her main protagonists are endearingly fragile and flawed, inflicted as they are with more than the normal quota of eccentricities or misfortunes.

There is Rebecca Davitch (Back When We Were Grown-ups) who found out late in life she had turned into the "wrong person" by marrying an older man with a ready-made family. She was horrified the dignified, scholarly young woman she once was had become a "bag lady" at 53, prone to laughing a trifle too loudly and delivering inane little speeches that rhyme. She scrambles to reclaim the self she feels entitled to and in the process finds out she never really strayed from it.

Delia Grinstead (A Ladder of Years) is the quintessential "ordinary housewife," so ordinary she is often invisible to her own husband and almost grownup children. In the middle of an ordinary beach vacation, Delia ups and leaves her family and reinvents herself in a strange town, as though it were the only way to get the attention she seeks. Though lonely and insecure, she resolves to stick to her decision to move on and away.

And what about Macon Leary (the Accidental Tourist), the most famous of Tyler’s blundering heroes? Macon is a geographic dyslexic, wandering constantly "in a fog adrift" – scarcely able to tell left from right, north from south -- who paradoxically does well as a travel writer. He also fumbles in his personal life, throwing away a still salvageable marriage, retrieving it, then junking it again. He finds diversion in the arms of a fuzzy-haired dog obedience trainer as loud and kooky as he is quiet and stodgy.

Tyler has a knack of creating outside-the-box jobs for her characters to make their living from. Rebecca is a professional party-giver willing to host any gathering -- from a date between an engaged pair to a convention of mobsters. Macon is a tourist writer with a twist – he writes for people who, like him, hate to travel but have to. Barnaby Gatlin (A Patchwork Planet) snubs his birthright to a family business to work for a company called Rent-a-Back doing odds jobs for the elderly. Rita Bedloe (Saint Maybe) specializes in fixing other people’s clutter while Emily and Leon Meredith (Morgan’s Passing) mount puppet shows.

Tyler writes like an angel, a critic once said. I agree. An angel with a sense of humor! Mirth – now sardonic , then impish -- lurks in every other Tyler page, pouncing on the reader when he least expects it, evoking a half smile or a throaty chuckle. A religious fanatic is Saint Maybe; a confused 50-year-old wants to "go back" in time to when she was a grown-up; a diner owned by a dysfunctional family is named "Homesick Restaurant;" a mother is so busy she "didn’t have time to think;" a protagonist is chronically lost, constantly "praying that just by luck he might stumble across his destination."

Tyler’s characters are textured, fleshed-out, and familiar. They are us, our families, our friends, our neighbors – struggling to find our way out of the humdrum of our lives. Tyler lets her characters fall but picks them up, gives them second chances, and allows them to forgive themselves. In that sense therefore, she, angel-like, helps us readers find our own redemption, too.

These are a few of the hundred reasons I love Anne Tyler. And it helps that she’s 60- something like me, is named almost like me, confesses to being shy like me, and writes, according to one and only one person in this huge planet, a bit like me. Even as I recognize that as blasphemy, I still can’t help but pick it up as flattery and hang it on a wall somewhere inside me.

17 comments:

Toe said...

Hi Annamanila! It's great that you have a writing hero. Go on and emulate her and write your novel. It's just waiting inside you to fly.

geri said...

Anna, I think anyone who reads "The Accidental Tourist" will get hooked with Anne Tyler :)

Abaniko said...

For all you know Anne Tyler is Annamanila in a parallel universe.

And I thought you write like Doris May Lessing. :-)

Rowena said...

Hi AM, will surely buy her books and of course your book buddy. Miss you na. See you soon.

imom said...

Wow! May Decolgen ad ka! LOL

Hey, Anne, este, Anna, I can't wait for the book to come out...

I hope to read more Tyler. I'm *almost* done with Patchwork Planet, haha. Did you lend or give that to me?

imom said...

Did my comment get through?

rheiboy17 said...

@abaniko; napaisip tuloy ako, baka nga iisa lang sila :-)

keep on writing...

Annamanila said...

Abaniko!

Something tells me I shouldn't have blogged about what Intsik said. :(

Abaniko said...

Annamanila, bakit naman?

Annamanila said...

Toe!

Aha, dami kong writing heroes. Bless them all. Masarao basahin. Mahirap gayahin. :)

Annamanila said...

Geri!

Yup. Galing ng Accidental Tourist, although to my mind Tyler wrote better books. Like Patchwork Planet and Saint Maybe.


I also wonder why Accidental Tourist is the only Tyler book made into a movie.

Annamanila said...

Rowena!

Thanks. I needed that. :)

Annamanila said...

I-mom!

Sa yo talaga yung Patchwork Planet. Pero you have to give back Conversations with God. :) Ty, ty for everything.

Annamanila said...

Abaniko and Rheiboy!

Panay kayo kalokohan!! :)

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Anonymous said...

Ms. Anna, good luck and congratulations!see you on the 27th. I hope I'll go home with an autographed book.

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