Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Accidental Tourist

1985, 1986 Berkley [sic] edition
Anne Tyler
The Accidental Tourist
Possibly bought newish for $4.50
Very worn paperback

In my review of Earthly Possessions, I quoted the line, "We have been traveling for years, traveled all our lives, we are traveling still."  And I compared it to the message of Celestial Navigation, in which being unable to travel even off your own block means that you miss out on life.  Here the message is more ambiguous than in either earlier novel.  The main character, Macon, comes to think of himself as always married to his estranged wife Sarah, even as they split up for good.  So in a sense they're still traveling "together," even when they're separate.  Meanwhile, he decides to return to the quirky, irritating but brave and lovable Muriel.  The title refers to Macon's series of travel guides for people who hate travel or anything unfamiliar, including Macon, although he changes under Muriel's influence.  There also people, and pets, moving back and forth from one household to another, so that they're tourists even in different neighborhoods of Baltimore. 

There are other echoes, sometimes distorted, of earlier novels, like the eccentric family living in the big old house, and the brothers who interfere with romances.  Macon's family is very particular in their ways (and though I'm less of a grammar Nazi, I do agree with them on "disinterested"), but very likable, so it's believable that swinging single publisher Julian (who's a bit like the agent in Celestial Navigation) would want to marry Macon's sister Rose and even move in with her and the two oldest brothers.  I did have some issues with Muriel following Macon to Paris, but she comes across as less of a stalker than Morgan in Morgan's Passing.  Neither of Macon's romances are perfect, but I can see why he's drawn to these two very different women, and vice versa.  At the time I first read the book, I didn't know how it would end.  (I hadn't seen the movie yet, and it may not have even been released at that point.)  I like that Macon recognizes how passive he's been, and that from now on, although his journey will be more spontaneous, he will also take a more active role in getting to his destination.

Breathing Lessons coming up in 1988....

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