Anne Tyler 1941–
American novelist, short story writer, and critic.
Tyler is noted as a writer of finely crafted fiction which is straightforward and realistic, yet lyrical. She achieves subtle, sometimes somber, effects of pathos or comedy through her precise choice of words. Tyler is especially adept at depicting tense family situations that result in lonely, confused members who long for meaning and understanding. Critics point out that she is representative of a new generation of Southern writers. Tyler tends toward restrained rather than dramatic effects and her characters do not react in bizarre or grotesque ways to their emotional isolation. Like the characters of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Tyler's people are heavily influenced by the past, but it is a personal, familial history, rather than a social one, which shapes them.
With her first two novels, If Morning Ever Comes (1964) and The Tin Can Tree (1965), Tyler established a reputation as a young novelist with an unusual command of her craft. Critics were especially impressed with her ability to describe setting, to characterize, and to create realistic dialogue while maintaining a spare and polished prose style. In subsequent works she has grown increasingly ambitious, creating more eccentric and imaginative characters and extending the time span of her stories to include several generations. In all of her works, Tyler's major concern is with the difficulties of human relationships and she focuses on individuals within large families whose members feel alienated from each other. Many critics have praised Tyler for examining the effects that family members have on each other's lives. Others suggest that Tyler has limited herself by not exploring the role that society plays in the shaping of personality.
Tyler's recent novel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982), has been acclaimed as her most accomplished work. Many critics maintain that it clearly establishes her as a major figure in American literature. As insightful, sensitive, and well-made as her previous works, this novel achieves greater depth through the complexity of its narrative structure. By juxtaposing the personalities of her six central characters and their outlooks on the present and the past, Tyler makes poignant observations on the benefits and limitations of family life.
(See also CLC, Vols. 7, 11, 18; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 11; Something about the Author, Vol. 7; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 6; and Dictionary of Literary Biography Year book: 1982.)