‘….lyrical beauty and ethical depth….’

November 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Great for Book Clubs, Middle Weight Fiction | Leave a comment

In 1995 Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”. I suddenly remembered this when thinking of ways of describing Anne Tyler’s fiction. Anne’s fiction similarly addresses everyday issues and occurences in the course of her characters lives. Far from being mundane her work addresses the mystic nature of these occurences and the complex and rich emotional situations that compliment them.

Anne is as unassuming as her prose which many reviews of her lately are claiming is responsible for her being lesser known than her contemporaries like John Updike. She has been nominated for the Pulitzer prize twice and has won it once in 1989 for her novel ‘Breathing Lessons’ but the media shy American author from Baltimore hasn’t done a book tour nor given a face to face interview since 1977.

Anne Tyler eighteenth novel ‘Noah’s Compass’ is receiving rave reviews. It is not fair of me to ask what is ‘Noah’s Compass’ about it is much more purposeful to ask what does it address. Other authors write books about the same things as Anne but Anne’s skills as an author explore these ideas in an ethical and deep way using minimal but deftly executed prose. The cover of this book I feel is inappropriate as it suggest a pretty light yarn which is not what she delivers.

‘Noah’s Compass’  addresses the problem of memory loss in older age through the story of Liam Pennywell a sixty year old man who has just lost his teaching post and through an unfortunate incident faces down the onset of memory loss. His life is an ordered and minimalist one. Widowed once and divorced once Liam lives a sparse and often detached life at stages. The distress of his sudden memory loss colours his relations with his family and his outlook on life. He is a man with very little to lose and very little he is able to achieve. Anne’s writing skills explore this intimately and you learn how appropriate the title of the book becomes when you encounter it’s use in the story.

A very fine piece of writing in a very fine body of work from an unsung hero of fiction.

Haiku; A light lit cover, in stark contrast with deftly, executed prose

Click here to view this book on Amazon.co.uk

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