Unlikeable, self-absorbed characters—it’s almost refreshing to encounter stories where learning something about the human psyche, not liking the characters, is the motivation for reading—almost.
Avoids the obvious:
Reading Beattie is similar to reading Mann, Roth, and (Sophie’s Choice): The narrative makes me textually claustrophobic. The experience of being too intimately acquainted with someone reminds me of the diaries—except, I liked those. Perhaps what is different is that since her characters are not necessarily going into mental descent, it feels cluttered. Not uncomfortably close because I learn their weaknesses, I expect that, but that there are so many weaknesses, so many external and internal conflicts within one short story that it feels outlandish, gothic and perhaps Gogolesque.
Key West setting
Adult themes (examples…chains, bike…bad-girl boots)
Fate, psychics: destiny as motivation for characters or a mechanism to draw characters together and then have them acknowledge and act on it.
Current events (pauses, but does not reflect, on)
Sex and sexuality
Reviews: Beattie is consistently reviewed in the Times, though I have to say I read her work without prejudice (without reading the reviews), so I was surprised that they reacted much the same.
the memoir within the book:
“This pathetic memoir, called ”My Life,” is unfortunately an uncanny mirror of Ann Beattie’s own novel, ”My Life, Starring Dara Falcon,” which similarly alternates between eye-glazing trivia and mind-boggling melodrama. Indeed Ms. Beattie’s novel embodies the worst flaws of her early and later fiction: the meaningless chatter and anomic cataloguing of the mundane that could turn her weaker stories into formulaic exercises in alienation, and the schematic narrative pyrotechnics that have made her less successful novels awkward and contrived.”
“This unlucky character isn’t the only thing to have disappeared from this novel. Nowhere to be found are the maturity and melancholy wisdom that have distinguished Ms. Beattie’s finest recent work. Gone, too, is the bright, glittering dialogue she could spin off with one hand…An ill-conceived experiment, ”My Life, Starring Dara Falcon” must surely mark a low point in this gifted writer’s career.”
In her Folio interview.
I write about relationships but I tend to leave a lot to the imagination or to interpretation. I am interested in the psychology of relationships, but not in showing a lot through back story. I am trying to find the balance between what I need to know and what readers need to know to get something out of each story.
According to Kakutani (Times, April, 2005), her style has inspired other writers in that it has “resulted in elliptical narratives free of authorial comment but filled with fistfuls of contemporary details and bright shards of dialogue.”
Beattie is everywhere.
Distortions (collection) 1976
Secrets and Surprises 1979
Fall in Place 1980
The Burning House, 1982
Love Always, 1985
Where You’ll find Me: And Other Stories, 1986
Picturing Will, 1989
What was Mine, 1991
Another You, 1995
My Life Starring Dora Falcon, 1997
Park City, New and Selected Stories, 1998
The Doctor’s House, 2000
Perfect Recall: New Stories, 2002
Follies: New Stories, 2005
Follies for the New York Times, (Anthology) 2008
Writer and Creative Writing professor at University of Virginia (as of 06)
Endings: I often wonder on what note to end the story, it’s quite simple once I think the story through verbally.