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The Accidental Tourist: A Novel


The Accidental Tourist: A Novel Cover



Author Q & A

A Conversation with Anne Tyler

Q: Can Macon be described as an accidental tourist in his own life?

Can we all?

AT: Certainly Macon can, but I wouldn't say that accidental tourism is

a universal condition. Some people seem to have very meticulous itineraries

for their lives.

Q: Ethan's tragic death looms over all of the characters in this novel.

Why are so many characters angry, at--or at least disapproving of--

Macon for his manner of grieving?

AT: Because to someone not very perceptive, Macon's manner of grieving

doesn't really look like grief.

Q: Is it simply inertia that prevents Macon from dealing with Edward's

misbehavior for so long? Why does he find the process of training

Edward to be so difficult and painful?

AT: While I was writing this book, I wondered the same thing. I asked

myself, Why do I seem to be going on and on about this ridiculous

dog, who has nothing to do with the main plot? Then when Muriel

asked Macon, "Do you want a dog who's angry all the time?" (or

words to that effect), I thought, Oh! Of course! That's exactly what he

wants! This dog is angry for him!

Q: Would you agree that Edward's reactions to Muriel mirror Macon's

to some degree?

AT: Oh, I think Edward is way ahead of Macon in his reactions.

Q: What does Singleton Street represent for Macon?

AT: Otherness. The opposite of his own narrow self.

Q: Macon, like many characters in this novel, feels trapped by other

people's perceptions of him. Does Muriel see Macon as he truly is, or

as someone he wants to be?

AT: Neither, really. She sees the person she herself wants him to be; but

since she's an accepting and non-judgmental type, who he really is

turns out to be all right with her.

Q: Macon's friends and family are mostly disapproving of "that

Muriel person." Is it simply a matter of class prejudice?

AT: Class for the most part; but also personality style. To a family so

undemonstrative, Muriel would be a bit daunting.

Q: If not for Muriel's persistence, would Macon have made a different


AT: Yes, certainly. Muriel is a pretty powerful force.

Q: In The Accidental Tourist, you write of Macon: "He began to think

that who you are when you're with somebody may matter more than

whether you love her." Ultimately, does Macon love Muriel?

AT: I think he really does.

Q: Macon remembers finding a magazine quiz in which Sarah

answered that she loved her spouse more than he loved her. How accurate

was her answer? Was Sarah correct in writing that she loved

Macon more than he loved her?

AT: Her answer reflected her limited understanding of Macon, I

believe, more than the true situation.

Q: Is Macon being honest when he tells Sarah that Muriel's young son

did not draw him to Muriel?

AT: I did mean that to be his honest answer. If anything, her son was a

negative quality--at least in the beginning.

Q: This novel explores the vexed nature of romantic relationships. Do

the couples that have formed over the course of this novel stand a


AT: Yes, of course they do. These are flawed relationships--as all

are--and they require compromise--as all do. But at least one member

of each couple has found a way to make those compromises.

Q: The Learys are at once remarkable comic figures and deeply human

characters. How difficult is it to achieve this delicate balance and neither

veer into parody nor a humorless character study?

AT: In early drafts, when I didn't know the Learys all that well, I did

veer over one or the other edge from time to time. But the most

rewarding experience in writing a novel is the gradually deepening

understanding of its characters; and once I knew the Learys better, the

balance came naturally.

Q: Is the Leary siblings' geographic dyslexia treatable?

AT: Speaking from personal experience, I would say absolutely not.

It's biological.

Q: Will Rose and Julian's relationship survive the transplant to the

Leary homestead?

AT: Yes, Julian will become a funny sort of quasi-Leary, purely out of

love for Rose, and a helpful liaison to the outside world.

Q: Is there any hope for Porter or Charles?

AT: Well, not much hope they'll truly change, of course. But they seem

contented as they are.

Q: Do you have the narrative fairly well mapped out before you begin

writing a novel, or do you find yourself taking detours? For instance,

did you know all along how this novel would end?

AT: I map my books out in a very cursory way--say, about a page for

each novel--and I always think I know how they'll end, but I'm

almost always wrong. In the case of The Accidental Tourist, I actually

began a chapter in which Macon stayed with Sarah. But it didn't

work; something in the characters themselves persuaded me the ending

would have to be different.

Q: Do your characters ever surprise you?

AT: All the time.

Q: What do you most enjoy about your life as writer? And least?

AT: The best part about being a writer is the experience of learning,

gradually, what it is like to be a person completely different from me.

The hard part is that for years on end, I am working in a vacuum. Is

this a story anyone will believe? Anyone will care about? I won't know

that until I'm finished.

Q: If you could invite any writer, living or dead, to attend a reading

group meeting to discuss their work, who would it be? What would

you most like to learn from her or him?

A: I would rather read the writer, not hear him or her talk. I know that

from being a writer myself: what I have to say, I have already said

through my stories.

Q: What are you reading right now?

AT: Lately, I have fallen in love with Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. It's a

mesmerizing novel, moving, amusing, and enlightening. And I am

telling everyone to watch for Mary Lawson's Crow Lake, a soon-to-be-

published novel about a family of orphans in the northernmost

reaches of Canada.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

A Novel
Random House Publishing Group
Tyler, Anne
Anne Tyler
Fiction : General
Travel writing
Psychological fiction
General Fiction
Film and Television-Novelization
Literature-A to Z
Foreign Languages-ESL
Publication Date:

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Accidental Tourist: A Novel
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