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Anne Tyler Biography

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Nationality: American. Born: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1941. Education: Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 1958-61, B.A. 1961; Columbia University, New York, 1961-62. Career: Russian bibliographer, Duke University Library, 1962-63; assistant to the librarian, McGill University Law Library, Montreal, 1964-65. Awards: American Academy award, 1977; Janet Kafka prize, 1981; PEN Faulkner award, 1983; National Book Critics Circle award, 1986; Pulitzer prize, 1989. Agent: Russell and Volkening Inc., 50 West 29th Street, New York, New York 10001.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels

If Morning Ever Comes. New York, Knopf, 1964; London, Chatto and Windus, 1965.

The Tin Can Tree. New York, Knopf, 1965; London, Macmillan, 1966.

A Slipping-Down Life. New York, Knopf, 1970; London, SevernHouse, 1983.

The Clock Winder. New York, Knopf, 1972; London, Chatto andWindus, 1973.

Celestial Navigation. New York, Knopf, 1974; London, Chatto andWindus, 1975.

Searching for Caleb. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto andWindus, 1976.

Earthly Possessions. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto andWindus, 1977.

Morgan's Passing. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto andWindus, 1980.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto and Windus, 1982.

The Accidental Tourist. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto andWindus, 1985.

Breathing Lessons. New York, Knopf, 1988; London, Chatto andWindus, 1989.

Saint Maybe. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto and Windus, 1991.

Ladder of Years. New York, Knopf, 1995.

A Patchwork Planet. New York, Knopf, 1998.

Uncollected Short Stories

"I Play Kings," in Seventeen (New York), August 1963.

"Street of Bugles," in Saturday Evening Post (Philadelphia), 30November 1963.

"Nobody Answers the Door," in Antioch Review (Yellow Springs, Ohio), Fall 1964.

"I'm Not Going to Ask You Again," in Harper's (New York), September 1965.

"Everything But Roses," in Reporter (New York), 23 September1965.

"As the Earth Gets Old," in New Yorker, 29 October 1966.

"Feather Behind the Rock," in New Yorker, 12 August 1967.

"Flaw in the Crust of the Earth," in Reporter (New York), 2November 1967.

"Common Courtesies," in McCall's (New York), June 1968.

"With All Flags Flying," in Redbook (New York), June 1971.

"Bride in the Boatyard," in McCall's (New York), June 1972.

"Respect," in Mademoiselle (New York), June 1972.

"Misstep of the Mind," in Seventeen (New York), October 1972.

"Knack for Languages," in New Yorker, 13 January 1975.

"Some Sign That I Ever Made You Happy," in McCall's (NewYork), October 1975.

"Your Place Is Empty," in New Yorker, 22 November 1976.

"Holding Things Together," in New Yorker, 24 January 1977.

"Average Waves in Unprotected Waters," in New Yorker, 28 February 1977.

"Foot-Footing On," in Mademoiselle (New York), November 1977.

"The Geologist's Maid," in Stories of the Modern South, edited by Ben Forkner and Patrick Samway. New York, Penguin, 1981.

"Laps," in Parents' Magazine (New York), August 1981.

"The Country Cook," in Harper's (New York), March 1982.

"Teenage Wasteland," in The Editors' Choice 1, edited by George E. Murphy, Jr. New York, Bantam, 1985.

"Rerun," in New Yorker, 4 July 1988.

"A Street of Bugles," in Saturday Evening Post (Indianapolis), July-August 1989.

"A Woman Like a Fieldstone House," in Louder than Words, edited by William Shore. New York, Vintage, 1989.

Other

Tumble Tower (for children). New York, Orchard, 1993.

Editor, with Shannon Ravenel, The Best American Short Stories 1983. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1983; as The Year's Best American Short Stories, London, Severn House, 1984.

Editor, with Shannon Ravenel, Best of the South: From Ten Years of New Stories from the South. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1996.

*

Film Adaptations:

The Accidental Tourist, 1988.

Bibliography:

Anne Tyler: A Bio-Bibliography by Robert W. Croft, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1995.

Critical Studies:

Art and the Accidental in Anne Tyler by Joseph C. Voelker, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1989; The Temporal Horizon: A Study of the Theme of Time in Anne Tyler's Major Novels by Karin Linton, Uppsala, Sweden, Studia Anglistica, 1989; The Fiction of Anne Tyler edited by C. Ralph Stephens, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1990; Understanding Anne Tyler by Alice Hall Petty, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1990; Anne Tyler as Novelist, edited by Dale Salwak, Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1994; Moving On: The Heroines of Shirley Ann Grau, Anne Tyler, and Gail Godwin by Susan S. Kissel, Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1996; An Anne Tyler Companion by Robert W. Croft, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1998; Anne Tyler: A Critical Companion by Paul Bail, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1998.

* * *

Anne Tyler's novels do not create cosmic waves but have quietly and carefully, for over a third of a century, attempted to illustrate the struggle between asserting one's individual identity versus functioning in a role within the American middle-class family. Perhaps it is because Tyler seems to place such importance on the role of family or because her settings stay primarily around the city and suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, or perhaps critics do not see her pushing the boundaries enough. In any case, despite a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for Breathing Lessons and a National Book Critics Circle Award, Tyler's work is chronically appreciated but not heralded by critics. Nevertheless, she is a prolific and popular writer. Her tendency to use humor to create colorful characters and place them into fairly ordinary circumstances has gained her a loyal readership and prompted comparisons to Eudora Welty, an American writer whose work she claims as an influence.

In Morgan's Passing, for instance, Morgan appears to be a well-adjusted family man. Inside, however, we discover he is struggling with what he sees as the madhouse he lives in—the goings on of his seven daughters and their friends are driving him over the edge. He attempts to cope through the use of costume and impersonation. Alternately, he becomes a tugboat captain, doctor, politician, clerk at a fish market, priest, and others. Morgan's home is not his haven, so he has to find shelter at his office at Cullen Hardware, and this refuge of changing identities within the world of work is reminiscent of Walter Mitty.

The quirky character in Breathing Lessons is Junie, Ira's sister. Like Jeremy in Celestial Navigation, Junie does not like to leave home. Ira's wife, Maggie, decides to help her break out of her shell by performing a makeover routine on her, from makeup to clothes. Like Morgan, Junie seems to draw courage from this disguised identity in the outside world. Unlike Morgan, however, Junie will only leave home with Ira at her side because as family, he represents a part of home going out with her.

In Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Ezra tries to create a family atmosphere at the restaurant that he feels is missing at home. In this novel, again there is a juxtaposition of the individual, the family, and the outside world of work and commerce. Tyler admits and demonstrates that the three do not always easily cohabit. In The Accidental Tourist, it takes another eccentric character, Muriel Pritchett, the dog trainer, to bring Macon Leary out of his sheltered world in which traveling is simply for business, not pleasure.

Delia Grinstead, in Ladder of Years, leaves her sheltered life in a much different way. If readers suspect Tyler is only capable of writing in a her self-established pattern, this novel marks a shift from the dependence on the quirky character device to an exploration of every family members' fantasy—what if I just walked right out that door and never came back? While at the beach, that is just what forty-yearold Delia does, finally settling in a small town in Delaware to find the self she never knew by living all of her adult life in the same house in which she grew up. As Tyler matures, so does her writing, and one wonders whether she may be one of the best chroniclers of the problems women born in mid-twentieth century America and living in the domestic sphere face in later life.

With A Patchwork Planet, Tyler returned to her familiar pattern, however. This time, she attempts to write from the point of view of Barnaby Gaitlin, a thirty-year-old loser who takes care of eccentric old people. In this novel, it is not so much a character from within a family doing the searching as it is a character without family searching for a home. While one wishes Tyler would venture out from her own protective sphere of character patterns, one cannot help but praise her for taking advantage of exploring what seems like every possible angle on the struggles of the individual inside and outside the shelter of home and family. Perhaps with the perspective of an elder spokesperson in the years ahead, she will offer new insights that only someone who has worked on a subject for many years can contribute to our understanding of this very ordinary, but vital aspect of the human condition.

—Connie Ann Kirk

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