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About the Monicas

Tessa Hadley: Anne Tyler

18 March 2004
The Amateur Marriage 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 306 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 7011 7734 9
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... Tulliver’s haircut and Jane Eyre’s sitting with her book between the curtains and the window. Anne Tyler, however, writes with intelligent and unapologetic enthusiasm about the Monicas. The heroine of The Amateur Marriage, her 16th novel, is absolutely ordinary. When we first meet Pauline in 1941 she’s a sweet, pretty girl who works as a ...

Family Romances

Anthony Thwaite

2 February 1989
A Little Stranger 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 9780747502791
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Running wild 
by J.G. Ballard.
Hutchinson, 72 pp., £5.95, November 1988, 0 09 173498 3
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Breathing Lessons 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 327 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7011 3391 0
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... by that one means fabulous, fanciful, whimsical, high-flown, etc, as under Roget 515: Lucas Salik, Anne Cowdenbeath, Cora Godfrey and the rest seemed precocious fictions, made palpable only by the finely-honed language in which they expressed themselves (‘Language is a case of knives’): ‘I was driven home by a man with no hands, my heart belonging to a ...

Lucky Brrm

John Sutherland

12 March 1992
Brrm! Brrm! 
by Clive James.
Cape, 160 pp., £12.99, November 1991, 0 224 03226 7
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Saint Maybe 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 337 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7011 3787 8
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Faustine 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 140 pp., £12.99, March 1992, 9780571142637
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... This is not the one. But Brrm! Brrm! will keep readers amused until the real thing comes along. Anne Tyler’s stories are set in Baltimore, a city which many readers will neither know nor feel guilty about not knowing. That there will be many readers of Saint Maybe, however, is a certainty. It is Anne Tyler’s ...

Big Rip-Off

Colin Burrow: Riffing Off Shakespeare

3 November 2016
Shylock Is My Name: ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Retold 
by Howard Jacobson.
Hogarth, 277 pp., £16.99, February 2016, 978 1 78109 028 2
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Vinegar Girl: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ Retold 
by Anne Tyler.
Hogarth, 233 pp., £16.99, June 2016, 978 1 78109 018 3
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The Gap of Time: ‘The Winter’s Tale’ Retold 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Hogarth, 291 pp., £16.99, October 2015, 978 1 78109 029 9
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Hag-Seed: ‘The Tempest’ Retold 
by Margaret Atwood.
Hogarth, 293 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 1 78109 022 0
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... on being absolutely comfortable about when to hit the wrong note. This​ may be the reason Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, though it’s a slight book, works so well. She plays The Taming of the Shrew as though it were an Anne Tyler novel, set, inevitably, in Baltimore. She asks of the play the question a ...
5 December 1985
Black Venus 
by Angela Carter.
Chatto, 121 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 7011 3964 1
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Come unto these yellow sands 
by Angela Carter.
Bloodaxe, 158 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 906427 66 5
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Mainland 
by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer.
Hamish Hamilton, 285 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 241 11643 0
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The Accidental Tourist 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 355 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 7011 2986 7
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Arrows of Longing 
by Virginia Moriconi.
Duckworth, 252 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 9780715620694
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... Angela Carter’s Black Venus is Baudelaire’s Creole mistress Jeanne Duval, whose hair the poet once likened to a sea of ebony, among other things; his enchantment and her disenchantment figure in the story, the first in an inspiriting new collection of eight by an inveterate scrutiniser of the whole romantic box of tricks ...

Every Rusty Hint

Ian Sansom: Anthony Powell

21 October 2004
Anthony Powell: A Life 
by Michael Barber.
Duckworth, 338 pp., £20, July 2004, 0 7156 3049 0
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... for his plummy fans any more than, say, J.G. Ballard should be blamed for the flakiness of his, or Anne Tyler for the limpness of hers. As for the books, they speak for themselves. Edmund Wilson once remarked of Powell that ‘he’s just entertaining enough to read in bed late at night in summer.’ This was presumably intended as a put-down, but to ...

Eating Alone

Francis Wyndham

17 May 1984
... now illegible newspaper cutting in the window, I suddenly remembered that my book was a novel by Anne Tyler called Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. The lady must never see this. I managed to conceal it under my coat until, while settling myself at the table, I slipped it onto the chair and sat down on top of it. An uneasy sense of subterfuge must have ...
21 October 1982
Ill seen ill said 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 59 pp., £4.95, August 1982, 0 7145 3895 7
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Mantissa 
by John Fowles.
Cape, 192 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 9780224029384
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Sounding the terriotory 
by Laurel Goldman.
Faber, 307 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 9780571119622
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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 303 pp., £7.50, September 1982, 0 7011 2648 5
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... said is bafflingly obscure, not in any new and unfamiliar way, but in the now historic Modernist manner that uses metaphor and symbolism to half-suggest a meaning. It plays the old trick of the far-flung allusion – for instance, to the statue of Memnon at Thebes, to Michelangelo and to King Lear. It will give more work to the scholars who have already ...
15 September 1988
... I may not. And if I don’t that’s okay too. I don’t feel as if I have to write a novel. KB: Anne Tyler wrote that the reason you write such good stories is because you’re not saving the best things up for writing a novel. RC: She said I was a ‘spendthrift’. Thai’s good. I think that a writer ought to spend himself on whatever he’s ...

Darling, are you mad?

Jenny Diski: Ghost-writing for Naim Attallah

4 November 2004
Ghosting 
by Jennie Erdal.
Canongate, 270 pp., £14.99, November 2004, 1 84195 562 0
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... black coffee to which, under her master’s gaze, she added two drops of rose-water in the manner of a holy rite.’ Lovely young things rush about London when Attallah cries: ‘Find me an orchid, darling. I need an orchid – the best in town.’ The entourage at Attallah’s publishing house were girls with names, double and triple ...

From Wooden to Plastic

James Meek: Jonathan Franzen

23 September 2015
Purity 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 563 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 00 753276 6
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... within it, The Corrections sets itself apart from the work of contemporary American writers like Anne Tyler for whom the family never stopped being central. As well as looking inwards to family dynamics of love, hate and mutual incomprehension, Franzen looks outwards to the worlds of corporate power, government policy, science, economics and national ...

Bringers of Ill Luck and Bad Weather

Penelope Fitzgerald: Anne Enright

2 March 2000
What Are You Like 
by Anne Enright.
Cape, 257 pp., £10, March 2000, 0 224 06063 5
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... In Anne Enright’s collection The Portable Virgin (published in 1991) the first story is about Cathy, who works in the handbag department of a large Dublin store. Cathy classifies the customers by the bags she induces them to buy, bags which ‘take them one step beyond who they thought they might be.’. Cathy marries late, but only falls violently in love when a ‘loose, rangy woman’ comes into the store and fingers the most beautiful of imports, ‘an Argentinian calf-skin shoulder bag in tobacco brown ...
11 September 2008
Your Name Here 
by Helen DeWitt and Ilya Gridneff.
helendewitt.com, 580 pp., £8, May 2008
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... in novels; that is harsh and bleak and weirdly proportioned; that talks about the readers of Anne Tyler and other perfectly decent authors as ‘ostriches’; that dismisses most contemporary fiction. You, on the other hand, are a reader committed to the art of fiction. Do you really need to go to DeWitt’s website and fork out $8 to buy what even ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters

24 January 2013
Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... symbolic figure, perhaps intended to displace a more commonly perceived symbolic figure – Anne Frank, let us say.’ That’s a pretty loaded insinuation. As late as 2005, Ozick, speaking at Harvard, was still condemning Styron’s decision to position a non-Jewish protagonist at the narrative centre, thereby diluting, obscuring and ultimately ...

Watch your tongue

Marina Warner

20 August 1992
Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love 
by Howard Bloch.
Chicago, 308 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 226 05973 1
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Women of the Renaissance 
by Margaret King.
Chicago, 328 pp., £13.50, December 1991, 0 226 43618 7
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The Lady as Saint: A Collection of French Hagiographical Romances of the 13th Century 
by Brigitte Cazelles.
Pennsylvania, 320 pp., £35, November 1991, 9780812230994
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Heavenly Supper: The Story of Maria Janis 
by Fulvio Tomizza, translated by Anne Jacobson Shutte.
Chicago, 184 pp., £19.95, December 1991, 0 226 80789 4
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Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance 
by Tina Krontiris.
Routledge, 192 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 415 06329 9
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... most other narrative works in the vernacular – romances, for example – were frowned on and banned. Margaret King, navigating the narrows the female sex had to ply, mentions copies of The Golden Legend, in English and French, being handed down from mother to daughter in the noblest families. The violent lives – and prolonged agonies in death – of the ...

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