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Anne Tyler

October 25 is party day for novelist Anne Tyler.  Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941, her father, Lloyd Parry Tyler, was a chemist and her mother, Phyllis Mahon Tyler, a social worker.  Anne is the author of a wide range of novels, including Searching for Caleb (1974), The Accidental Tourist (1985), and Breathing Lessons (1988), which won for her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1989.

"I mean you're given all these lessons for the unimportant things - piano-playing, typing. You're given years of lessons in how to do in normal life. But how about parenthood? Or marriage, either, come to think of it. Before you can drive a car you need a state-approved course of instruction, but driving a car is nothing, nothing, compared to living day in and day out with a husband and rising up a new human being." - from Breathing Lessons

Tyler's parents moved frequently, living mostly in Quaker communes throughout the South and Midwest before finally settling in Raleigh, North Carolina.  She was home schooled and largely ignorant of the technological advances of society.  She spent most of her youth shoeless, and she enrolled in public school for the first time at the age of 11.  Her classmates were amazed that she'd never used a telephone.  She said, "My upbringing made me view the normal world with a certain amount of distance...to this day I am surprised by the taste of Coca-Cola."

Since she had difficulty falling asleep at night, she devised a game in which she would tell herself made up stories.  Most of them were centered around people who had difficulty coping with the everyday stress and strain of life and the changes required to survive.

At the age of 19, Tyler was graduated from Duke University, where she won the Anne Flexner Award for creative writing on two occasions.  Her first published short story, Laura, appeared in Duke University's literary magazine, the Archive.  She completed her post-graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University before settling in Baltimore, which would become her primary home in life.  She married Taghi Modarressi, a psychologist from Iran, in1963, and the couple have two daughters. 

Tyler's first novel proved difficult for her.  She had trouble finding an ending for it.  When she accidentally left the manuscript on an airplane, she was forced to rewrite it from scratch, which resulted in If Morning Ever Comes (1964).

She went on writing and publishing novels while raising her children, doing all of her writing between the hours of 8:00 AM and 3:30 PM, when her daughters were at school.  She said, "If things [were] going well, I [would] feel a little drugged by the events in my story...When the children [rang] the doorbell I [would] have trouble sorting my lives out...We bake cookies.  Run the dog.  Argue.  My characters grow paler and paler and finally slink away."

Most of Tyler's novels are set in Baltimore.  The city's Roland Park area is one of the places where her characters Macon Leary of The Accidental Tourist, Delia Grinstead from Ladder of Years, and the Peck Family in Searching for Caleb live.  Muriel Pritchett from the Accidental Tourist, the Tull family in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and Rebecca Davitch of Back When We Were Grownups call the city's Charles Village home.

Tyler gave very few interviews in her early career and fewer still as the years passed.  She long ago decided that she enjoyed being a private person.  She doesn't do book tours and nearly never appears in person or on talk shows.  If she responds to questions by reporters, she usually does so in writing.

Anne Tyler said, "[I write because] I want to live other lives.  I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get.  Writing is my way of making other chances.  It's lucky I do it on paper.  Probably I would be schizophrenic--and six times divorced—if I weren't writing."

Tyler, whose most recent book is The Amateur Marriage (2003), one said, "There aren't enough quiet, gentle, basically good people in [contemporary fiction.]"

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