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Baltimore author Anne Tyler short-listed for prestigious Man Booker Prize

Anne Tyler is a finalist for the Man Booker prize, one of the world's most prestigious honors for literary fiction.
Anne Tyler is a finalist for the Man Booker prize, one of the world's most prestigious honors for literary fiction.(Michael Lionstar / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore author Anne Tyler is one of six authors -- and two Americans -- to be short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, arguably the world's second most prestigious literary award.

The six finalists, who were culled from a field of 13 semi-finalists named in late July, were announced Tuesday at a press conference in London. Tyler, 73, is in the running for her 20th novel, "A Spool of Blue Thread," which grapples with issues of old age and mortality.

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"My first thought on hearing the news, after of course feeling pleased and surprised, was that I'm going to have to leave dear Baltimore for a few days in order to attend the ceremony," Tyler wrote in a brief email.  "But I am adjusting to the prospect."

In cultural circles, only the Nobel Prize for Literature carries more international cachet than the Booker. And, in the English-speaking world, the novel that wins the Booker may be more widely read.

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The winner will be announced Tuesday, Oct. 13, at a black-tie dinner in London. This is only the second year Americans have been eligible to be nominated for the award. The winner will receive 50,000 British pounds (about $76,768 in U.S. dollars) and will receive international recognition.

Over the decades, Tyler has become indelibly associated with Baltimore. She sets her novels here and celebrates quirky, endearing Baltimore characters. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for her 11th novel, "Breathing Lessons," and her 10th novel, "The Accidental Tourist," was made into a film starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis.

The other finalists are:

  • New York resident Hanya Yanagihara for "A Little Life"
  • London-based Tom McCarthy for "Satin Island"
  • Jamaican-born author Marlon James for "A Brief History of Seven Killings"
  • Chigozie Obioma of Nigeria for "The Fishermen"
  • The British writer Sunjeev Sahota for "The Year of the Runaways"

Tyler's novel "A Spool of Blue Thread" tells the story of Red and Abby Whitshank, a couple in their 70s. Red Whitshank has already had a heart attack and is semi-retired from the family construction business. His wife, Abby, is experiencing occasional mental lapses so worrisome that the couple's four adult children decide their parents no longer can live alone.

"Spool" travels back and forth in time from the 1920s to the present and from Hampden to Roland Park, weaving stories of Red's parents and of his and Abby's four adult children.

The title is a metaphor for family and the strands that unite and confine.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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