Last week I was driving along in my car in silence. I don’t often drive in silence, unless I’m in a difficult driving situation or I’m preparing for a speaking engagement. Between audio books and an iPod, there’s usually something to listen to. But it was silent.
I realized that I had been listening to my latest audio book – Noah’s Compass – by Anne Tyler. I had turned it off. Why had I turned it off? I hated it. I hated the main character. I hated the lack of a plot. I hated the plodding timing. Unconsciously I had decided that street noise was preferable to this book.
It’s not like I had just started the book and decided I didn’t like it. I was half-way through and just couldn’t stand it any longer. The main character was making me crazy and reading, which normally brings me joy, was just draining me.
Anne Tyler has written some amazing books. My favorite was Saint Maybe, but I also really liked Digging to America and Back When We Were Grownups. She is expert at taking the small things of everyday life and spinning them into epic tales. You feel like you could know the families in her books (if you live in Baltimore) and you see the larger themes of life reflected in their lives.
The problem being that the line between spinning epic tales out of the ordinary and spinning plodding joyless tales out of boring lives is, evidently, a pretty thin line.
Noah’s Compass had no character named Noah and no direction, making the title ironic. Avoid this book at all cost.
Tyler had been one of those authors whose books were sometimes brilliant, but always really good. After Noah’s Compass (and a few previous mediocre novels) I no longer feel that way about her work. I won’t be assuming that it’s safe to pick up her books, which makes me sad.
Anne, please go back to writing really good books!