“Any Baltimorean can tell you I’m not a real Baltimorean,” Anne Tyler admits. She fears that when she answers questions about the city, somewhere “the grandmothers are whispering, ‘She doesn’t know a thing about Baltimore!’ ” Spoken like a true Baltimorean, we say. Even though she was born in Minnesota and grew up in North Carolina, the Pulitzer-winning novelist has lived in Baltimore for 45 years, writes about it constantly, and has an honest affection for our city’s eccentricities. “It’s a city with grit and sort of a feisty spirit to it. I think it’s a very funny city and I love it,” she says.
Unsurprisingly, our city is the backdrop for Tyler’s nineteenth novel, The Beginner’s Goodbye, released this month. The story follows Aaron Woolcott, a youngish editor at a Baltimore vanity press, who lives in a house off Cold Spring Lane. (Tyler lives in Roland Park.) After his wife is killed by a tree that falls on their house, Woolcott starts seeing her ghost in the strangest places. The book has received flattering reviews from Publishers Weekly, which called The Beginner’s Goodbye “an uplifting tale of love and forgiveness. By the end of this wonderful book, you’ve lived the lives and loves of these characters in the best possible way.”
And Tyler gets some positive words from none other than Mr. Baltimore himself, John Waters: “She beautifully captures regular people who are not trying to be noticed. She writes about real life.” And though it may not appear so at first, Waters sees similarities between his own work and that of Tyler: We concentrate on the eccentrics,” Waters says. “I always am interested in people who think they’re normal and yet are totally insane. She writes about people who think of themselves as normal, and are normal, but also eccentrics who don’t know it.” We’re pretty sure the grandmothers of Baltimore would approve.
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