I love knowing that a new generation of readers will be meeting Macon Leary and his dog Edward.
For me, The Accidental Tourist was a book of surprises. First, there was the matter of the title. It came to me almost immediately, but I never planned to use it because I thought it sounded clunky. I told my two daughters that I was offering a $100 reward to anyone who could come up with something more poetic. This caused a spurt of hopeful teenagers to appear at my kitchen door suggesting phrases they found appealing—any old phrase, since I’d told them I could always find some way to work it into the text. But in the end, I disappointed them all and grudgingly resigned myself to The Accidental Tourist.
And then Edward. I had set out to write about a couple dealing with the death of a son, so why was I spending so many pages on a mere dog? And such an angry dog, so suspicious, so hostile to the outside world! I was a third of the way through the manuscript before I thought, “Oh. Wait. Of course Macon would have this dog, at this point in his life.”
Then after the book was published, I was surprised by the number of letters that came from readers whose children had died. I had worried about my presumptuousness in describing a grief that I hadn’t endured myself—the very worst grief possible, I believe—and I half expected these people to ask, “How dare you think you can speak for us?” Instead, they told me their own stories in the gentlest and most heartbreaking terms. I am still haunted by some of those stories. For a time it seemed almost every letter I wrote was a sympathy note, and my daughters probably found me a much too over-protective mother during that period.
And now the last surprise: that The Accidental Tourist should experience this rebirth. I hope it has aged well. I hope you’ll forgive Macon his foibles, and smile at Muriel, and send Edward the dog a little tongue-click of approval. Anne Tyler Baltimore, Maryland
The Beginner's Goodbye
The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.
We were strolling through Belvedere Square, for instance, on an early- spring afternoon when we met our old next- door neighbor, Jim Rust. “Well, what do you know,” he said to me. “Aaron!” Then he noticed Dorothy beside me. She stood peering up at him with one hand shielding her forehead from the sun. His eyes widened and he turned to me again.
I said, “How’s it going, Jim?”
Visibly, he pulled himself together. “Oh . . . great,” he said. “I mean . . . or, rather . . . but of course we miss you. Neighborhood is not the same without you!”
He was focusing on me alone— specifically, on my mouth, as if I were the one who was talking. He wouldn’t look at Dorothy. He had pivoted a few inches so as to exclude her from his line of vision.
I took pity on him. I said, “Well, tell everybody hello,” and we walked on. Beside me, Dorothy gave one of her dry chuckles.
Other people pretended not to recognize either one of us. They would catch sight of us from a distance, and this sort of jolt would alter their expressions and they would all at once dart down a side street, busy- busy, much to accomplish, very important concerns on their minds. I didn’t hold it against them. I knew this was a lot to adjust to. In their position, I might have behaved the same way. I like to think I wouldn’t, but I might have.
The ones who made me laugh aloud were the ones who had forgotten she’d died. Granted, there were only two or three of those— people who barely knew us. In line at the bank once we were spotted by Mr. von Sant, who had handled our mortgage application several years before. He was crossing the lobby and he paused to ask, “You two still enjoying the house?”
“Oh, yes,” I told him.
Just to keep things simple.
I pictured how the realization would hit him a few minutes later. Wait! he would say to himself, as he was sitting back down at his desk. Didn’t I hear something about . . . ?
Unless he never gave us another thought. Or hadn’t heard the news in the first place. He’d go on forever assuming that the house was still intact, and Dorothy still alive, and the two of us still happily, unremarkably married.
I had moved in by then with my sister, who lived in our parents’ old place in north Baltimore. Was that why Dorothy came back when she did? She hadn’t much cared for Nandina. She thought she was too bossy. Well, she was too bossy. Is. She’s especially bossy with me, because I have a couple of handicaps. I may not have mentioned that. I have a crippled right arm and leg. Nothing that gets in my way, but you know how older sisters can be.
Oh, and also a kind of speech hesitation, but only intermittently. I seldom even hear it, myself.
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