It’s like a dream come true—a chance to revisit a past novel and second-guess, explain, justify, amplify stuff in a few recipes and old photos by way of illustration…. What writer wouldn’t leap at the prospect?
First edition. Signed and inscribed on the half-title: “Still the book closest to my heart, not counting whatever I’m currently working on. A.T.” Also signed and inscribed on title-page: “I had the title before I had a novel to go with it. And I had the restaurant idea before I had the title. Anne Tyler.” Biography blends with invention at the outset as she describes Cody’s early bout of croup. “Startlingly clear memory fragment from age 2 ½ — two nights alone in the hospital in an ivory-painted metal crib. I ‘gave’ the crib to Cody. (As I remember it, I cried every moment of the hospital stay.)” “Cody and I feel the same about time,” Tyler writes at the close of chapter 8. “(Time is about the only way I can give my books any plot, since I’m not very action oriented.)…I could write forever about how people’s stories transform themselves so completely, depending on different viewpoints—and every version is as sincerely believed as the previous one.” (p.218) Later in the novel she staples in photocopies of her Great-Aunt Sadie, whose diaries proved the inspirations for Pearl’s diaries. Sadie’s diaries were “written in 1903 and 1908. Except for the heartbreakingly brief description of her fiancé’s death of typhoid, she wrote about nothing but domestic details, which may have been tedious to readers in 1903 and 1908 but fascinated me in the 1970s.” Beneath a second image of Sadie, Tyler writes: “I think Pearl could have looked like this, in one of her softer moods.” She admits to an important second thought about a key point in the plot, Beck’s abandonment of Pearl: “If I were writing this book now, I think I would have had Beck leave Pearl for another woman. It seems slightly unrealistic that such a garrulous man would simply strike off on his own the way he did. He’d have met some woman who flattered him, and he would decide he was in love with her, at least briefly.”
TYLER, Anne (b. 1941). Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards; dust jacket.