Anne Tyler

A Real Fortune-Teller Knows

Excerpt from Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler:

“I mean, your left hand is your whole entire past! I wonder if one of my books deals with this.”

“If it’s my past, why do we care?” Liam asked. “We just want to know about my future?

“Oh, you can’t read one without the other,” Esther Jo told him. “They’re intermingled. They bounce off of each other. That’s what the amateurs fail to understand.”

She released his hands with a dismissive little pat that gave Liam a sense of rejection, absurdly enough.

“Let’s see if I can explain this,” she said. “You know how farmers can predict what kind of winter they’ll have by looking at the acorns and berries? Those acorns and berries are the way they are because of what has gone before — how much rainfall there’s been and et cetera, et cetera. A whole lot depends on the weather that’s already happened. And the farmers know that.”

She gave him a quick, self-confirming nod.

“We, just the same way, a real fortune-teller — and I’m not one to brag, but I am a real fortune-teller; I’ve just always had the gift, somehow — a real fortune-teller knows that your future depends on your past. It keeps shifting about; it’s not carved in stone. It keeps bouncing off whatever happened earlier. So, no, I can’t do a thing without seeing what’s in your left palm.”

How to Listen

Excerpt from Anne Tyler’s new novel, Noah’s Compass:

At St. Dyfrig once, invited to view a poem on the English department’s computer, he had clicked on How to listen and been disappointed to find mere technical instructions for playing the audio version. What he had been hoping for was advice on how to listen to poetry—and, by extension, how to listen, really listen, to what was being said all around him. It seemed he lacked some basic skill for that.