Saturday, September 15, 2012

Celestial Navigation

1974, 1993 Ivy Books edition
Anne Tyler
Celestial Navigation
Bought new for $5.99
Worn paperback

The second of Tyler's novels set in Baltimore, in fact mostly set in one boarding house, is a slip in quality from The Clock Winder.  Jeremy, an artist who is afraid to leave the block he lives on, falls in love with Mary, a competent but illogical woman who wants only to have lots more kids than the one she has.  She's good at taking care of people, including Jeremy, but gets tired of him not participating more in life.  They miscommunicate through the whole novel, and the only character who understands them hesitates to "interfere."  It's a very frustrating, depressing book, although the characterization is well beyond Tyler's work in the '60s.

The story is set from 1960 to 1973, and it includes a hippie girl who believes in men's liberation.  This attempt at relevancy make the novel feel more rather than less old-fashioned, particularly since Mary is an earth mother to even strangers.  The title has to do with sailing by the stars, although the title drop explains that head-in-the-clouds Jeremy has his own celestial navigation.  The problem is, everyone thinks he's wonderfully talented and that excuses his self-centeredness and neglect of his family.  Also, Jeremy is so out of touch with reality, it's hard to picture him having enough sex to become a father of five.

Since I don't own Searching for Caleb (1975), we won't return to Tyler until 1977....

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