Archive for the ‘Ann Tyler’ Category

First there was the Austen project, various modern authors writing novels based on her novels—I loved McCall Smith’s Emma, her father turned into a health food fanatic—and now there is the Shakespeare project, with various modern authors taking on the plays. I don’t think Ian McEwan’s Nutshell is officially part of the project, but it is in fact a modern vision of Hamlet—Hamlet unborn, Hamlet as the intelligent homunculus trying to make sense of his world, upside down and clasped tight within his mother’s body: “Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell”…I was astonished by the brilliance and intelligence of the prose. His earlier book, Atonement, I recognized as fine and well written, but was not enchanted. Well, perhaps I am not enchanted by Nutshell either, how dark is the world this author lives in. But, so witty and educated a writer is impossible not to love. He made me chortle more than once. The unborn child hears and pictures what is happening out in the world. His mother’s trysts with his uncle, so thrilling to them, are deliriously ludicrous from his particular vantage point. How he loathes his uncle! A fatuous man, who loves to hear himself speak—“Each brave new topic rises groaning to its feet, totters, then falls to thehamlet next.” When the lovers drink together, our narrator shares the wine, the whiskey. Through his mother’s bones and flesh, he listens to podcasts, to radio, to stormy quarrels between the lovers, between his father and mother. Anxiously he fingers his cord—“it serves for worry beads.” He imagines himself placed in a foster home, “raised bookless on computer toys, fat, and smacks to the head.” Oh sad tiny creature, taking arms against a sea of troubles.

So, the whole familiar story is set forth as viewed from this unfamiliar viewpoint. A tour de force! Well worth reading! Though I think I can say for sure that this will NOT be made into a movie!

However, Vinegar Girl just might be, and how happy I would be to watch it! This is Anne Tyler’s charming reconsidering of The Taming of the Shrew. Set, of course, in Baltimore, her city. Kate, in this version, is the daughter of a brilliant professor doing research in a Johns Hopkins lab. After her mother died, Kate became the caretaker of the house, her father, and her younger sister. She works in a preschool, is an awkward and difficult person. Pyotr works with her father, and needs to marry an American to stay in the country. He is VERY FOREIGN, making “bald, obvious compliments, dropping them with a thud at her feet like a cat presenting her with a dead mouse.” But, well, things happen and we work our way to a delightful happy ending. This book will make you smile.oil20shrew20202


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