Tyler has cited sociologist Erving Goffman’s studies of the meaning of gestures in personal interactions as a huge influence on her observational writing.

Anne Tyler The author of sprawling family dramas on her own epic half-century of writing.

Anne Tyler The author of sprawling family dramas on her own epic half-century of writing.

Issue 37

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Ben Shattuck
  • Photograph Stephen Voss

At 78, Anne Tyler might have what every writer wants: twenty-two novels to her name, many of which are New York Times bestsellers; a devoted and broad readership; nearly unanimous adoration from critics reinforced by the most prestigious literary awards, including a Pulitzer Prize. Tyler, who is known for writing luminously about everyday dramas, was raised in a series of utopian experimental communities in the mountains.  “You’re really an outsider when you come out of those,” she says. Setting most of her novels within families whose dramas feel familiar to many readers, she’s made a lifelong career out of explaining our intimate worlds to us.

You have a famously rigorous process—writing longhand, recording yourself reading aloud, transcribing, rewriting and so on. Have you...

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