Book reviews Critiques littéraires Books recently published in english and french.

mardi 19 octobre 2010

Ann Tyler, Noah's Compass,Vintage, 2010

The latest book of the Prolific Tyler, a novelist and also a gifted sociologist , takes place in Baltimore as usual,but tackles the problem of old age on the one hand and of resignation to one's life in the world , on the other hand. It is a very interesting and a very unusual book.
The theme of acceptance is present in Tyler's work but the wisedom of forming an essential life with no frills is new. The hero Liam is the well known Tyler quirky type,or unreliable eccentric ,but a basically decent older man who finds himself automatically retired when he is fired from his teaching job at age sixty. He is certainly an educated man,but unambitious, a push over, who never involved himself in anything strongly enough to fight for it. So, he had two marriages and three daughters,a sister , one or two friends, but now he finds himself essentially alone in a creepy appartment. Yet,when he is burgled and mugged the day he moves in, and finds himself in the hospital with amnesia, he finds all these people at his bed side caring for him.
So, it is not the theme of loneliness which interests Tyler but the presence in a given american suburban society,of a group of carers or helpers.They are there always. There is thus a strong solidarity which is not so evident in european novels, which are replete with truly lonely characters who live on their own helped by no one.
This desertion does not happen in Tyler's world and it is amazing to see her novelistic families rooted in one place, Baltimore in this case), ignoring globalization , job's uprooting and other disintegrating factors of the modern sphere.It allows for a structural force in her work,reminiscent of nineteenth century's literature but also providing a strong emotional texture and revealing dialogues where her power of observation are evident. No one describes every day life and quotidian conversation as she does in american literature.
When you are entering your sixties, it is better to understand that your romantic life is over and that other values take pre eminence; this is what Liam does .Now, it is rare to see a main character refuse an easy form of narcissism and rise to a level of moral choice. Yes, he can find another job and work again, make himself useful. He does not take pride in this choice but finds natural happiness in a basic american virtue : to live a useful life on one's own. Few European advanced societies can boast of such an achievement in the problem of obliged retirement and subsequent psychological self destruction. .

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Brussels, Belgium
Née à Bruxelles, mère résistante et sculpteur, père homme d’affaires, études à l ’Université libre de Bruxelles ( Philosophie et Lettres ; arts primitifs), puis à Harvard ( anthropologie), Rutgers New Brunswick, Duke University .N.C. USA ( littérature comparée, Masters et Doctorat.) Thèse publiée (Ph.D) sur Valéry et Mallarmé. Enseignement universitaire aux USA, en France (Aix en Provence) et au Liban (comme coopérant) ,littérature et philosophie , en français ou anglais. Mariée en premières noces à un avocat américain G.Robert Wills et puis à un peintre et publiciste Français, Jean- Pierre Rhein (décédé). La plupart des publications sous le nom de Wills.Vit à Bruxelles.