The Accidental Purist
WHY ANNE TYLER FINDS JOY IN THE UNEXPECTED
story about a
family who runs a
show in a carnival.
I got so involved
with the characters,
I was sad when
the novel ended.”
IN NOAH’S COMPASS, Anne Tyler’s 18th novel since If Morning
Q: Why that title?
Ever Comes (1964), 61-year-old Liam Pennywell wakes up in a
hospital bed with no memory of his head injury—but total recall of his recent
humiliating job loss. As others voice strong (and divergent) opinions on what
the suddenly unemployed Baltimore schoolteacher should do next, Liam
examines the roundabout route that led him to this pivotal point in his life.
A: Noah’s Compass suggested itself as Liam and his grandson meandered through
a discussion of the biblical Noah—another person without a specific destination.
Q: Your last novel came out in 2006. Was writing this one different for you?
A: It was slower—and much harder—than the earlier books. That may have
something to do with age (I turned 68 last fall), but I hope I’m wrong, because
what would that mean for the next book?
Q: You and Liam have both lost a spouse. Do you identify with him?
A: I never identify with any of my characters—at least not at the start. I think I
deliberately create characters unlike me so I can experiment with being someone completely different. But I do identify with one concern of Liam’s: What do
people our age have to look forward to once we pass the anticipated milestones?
Q: Liam takes under his wing both his daughter’s teenage boyfriend and
another daughter’s three-year-old son. How did those bonds come about?
A: A joy of writing novels is that such developments often come out of nowhere.
I had no special plans for either Damian or Jonah at the outset, but I warmed to
them as the story went along. Apparently Liam did, too. —Bethanne Patrick
Thereby Hangs a Tail
BY SPENCER QUINN.
Bernie and Chet—human
and canine principals,
respectively, of the Little
solve a dognapping on
the eve of the Great Western Dog Show.
The 62-year-old Quinn’s triumph in this
novel (and its prequel, Dog On It) is to
narrate the story, convincingly, in the
voice of Chet—whose sniffing, digging,
and leaping skills help nab the perps.
Obsolete B Y ANNA
JANE GROSSMAN. Body
hair, hitchhiking, cursive
writing: All are imperiled
relics of the modern era,
says this chronicle of dis-
appearing objects, habits,
and ideas. Likewise clinging by their nails
are spelling, books, newspapers, privacy,
and aging—the latter defined here as “a
biological process that occurred before
the advent of plastic surgery.”
BY GAIL GODWIN. This
old-fashioned yarn with
a twist follows several
generations of schoolgirls
and the nuns who teach
and (more or less) guide
them at a North Carolina academy. The
story skips back and forth in time, end-
ing in the present, and hinges on faith,
treachery, and forgiveness. Some melo-
drama aside, a satisfying page-turner.
My Paper Chase: True Stories of
Vanished Times BY HAROLD EVANS.
A delightfully self-effacing tour of
one editor’s storied career—and
a seminar on the primacy of a free
press. Evans focuses on his stewardship, from 1967 to 1981, of the London
Sunday Times, where
he battled tyrants
above (media baron
below (corrupt trade
unions), and beyond
libel laws). ;