Anne Tyler Did Not Give Up

Today I’m writing about one of my favorite authors, Anne Tyler. Ms. Tyler is, in my opinion, a Master of Quirk. Quirky characters, quirky families, quirky situations. I picked up If Morning Ever Comes, several times at the library and always returned it to the shelf. But I finally decided to try it, even though I thought the title seemed unlike her others, it almost sounded romance-y. If Morning Ever Comes. Bah.

It wasn’t like her other novels at all. I couldn’t keep the sisters straight at the beginning, and was no better off at the end. The “feisty” grandmother didn’t connect with me, the mother was aloof and a mystery and not clearly developed and the main character was boring. He might be the most boring guy who ever lived, and his dialogue was less than stellar. He says “Well” a lot. Nothing more. Just, well.

The most minute details are discussed, even the location of where one of the sisters left her napkin. I’m guessing it was a cloth napkin, and, mystery solved, she left it on the porch. As if anyone would care about that. It wasn’t a long book, I’m guessing under 100,000 words, and most of it was devoted to describing boring and trivial events.

I could scarcely read the main guy’s name, Ben Joe, without cringing (wasn’t one of the Walton sons named Ben Joe? No I guess that was Jim Bob.) Apparently, Ben Joe figured that the household couldn’t function properly without him and so, when his oldest sister, who was married and lived in some Midwestern state, Iowa maybe, with a daughter, left her husband and returned to the old family homestead, he decided, being the only male member, he needed to make the trip back home from college to attend to things.

He shows up, and things get more trivial from there, details about who sits where, and these descriptions lack imagination. And forget about Show Don’t Tell. I finished the book because I wanted to blog about it, and for no other reason. I went on Amazon and looked at reviews of this book, and found that other people disliked it as much as I did. I read comments like, “I really love Anne Tyler, but this book was not like her usual, it was just boring.”

And then I discovered that it was her first book, written in 1964 and Ms. Tyler later disavowed it, saying she didn’t understand how it got published in the first place. Maybe some editor saw something in her prose, some glimmer of great things to come. And maybe the fact that she sold the first one, gave Ms. Tyler the enthusiasm to go forward, write more stories, which got better and better, as time went on.

So the moral of the blog is… Authors, Don’t Give Up.

Keep on writing. Sure maybe the first one isn’t going to make anyone’s best seller list, and maybe looking back on first attempts, you might think, I kinda wish now I hadn’t put that out there. But the skill of writing is a learned one, just as everything else. Of course, it helps to have a bit of talent, and a sense of humor, and maybe a few ideas that no one has thought of, but no one can put a string of words together in quite the same way you can.

Everyone has different histories, different environments, different families and friends and events that happen to them. All of that goes into writing too, as one of my friends put it, and I’m not quoting directly, but words to the effect that “An author’s fiction is his own unique perspective on life.”

So, get discouraged if you must, but don’t give up.

I’m not going to.

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