Saturday, April 01, 2017

A tendency to form inconvenient alliances

This week I read something by Anne Tyler — The Accidental Tourist — because there it was on my reader and I was looking for something non-demanding to read, I must've picked it up for a dollar or so, thinking I should see what Anne Tyler's all about, because lots of readers seem to like her, and I recall a ringing endorsement from Nigella Lawson (even if not for this novel in particular).

If I were a different kind of person, I would've set the book down after a dozen or so pages. Sometimes I wish I were a different kind of person.
Back home, Macon had kept a stack of index cards giving detailed directions to the houses of his friends — even friends he'd known for decades. And it used to be that whenever Ethan met a new boy, Macon's first anxious question was, "Where exactly does he live, do you know?" Ethan had had a tendency to form inconvenient alliances. He couldn't just hang out with the boy next door; oh, no, it had to be someone who lived way beyond the Beltway. What did Ethan care? He had no trouble navigating. This was because he'd lived all his life in one house, was Macon's theory; while a person who'd been moved around a great deal never acquired a fixed point of reference but wandered forever in a fog — adrift upon the planet, helpless, praying that just by luck he might stumble across his destination.
I'm not even sure why I didn't like it. None of the characters are particularly likeable or admirable, but that's never stopped me from liking a book before. None of them exhibits much growth or acquires much awareness either. I simply didn't care what happened.

I found myself reading for the sake of reading — not that there's anything wrong with that. Maybe in fact it was just the thing to ease me through a tedious workweek. I mean, the story is sweet enough; the book is not offensively terrible in any way. Just... sweet. Maybe I would not have fared any differently with any other book this week.

But I think I can conclude that if this novel is at all representative — is it? — then Anne Tyler is not for me.

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