PARK CITY: New and Selected Stories
AbeBooks Seller Since November 6, 1997Quantity Available: 1
AbeBooks Seller Since November 6, 1997Quantity Available: 1
About this Item
Title: PARK CITY: New and Selected Stories
Publisher: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. dj
Publication Date: 1998
Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: 1st Edition
About this title
Thirty-six stories--eight appearing in a book for the first time and a generous selection from her earlier collections--give us Ann Beattie at stunning mid-career.
Emotionally complex, edgy, and funny, the stories encompass a huge range of tone and feeling. The wife of a couple who have lost a child comforts her husband with an amazing act of tenderness. A man who's been shifting from place to place, always finding the same kind of people--sometimes the same people in various configurations--tries to locate himself in the universe. An intricate dance of adultery brings down a marriage. A housekeeper experiences a startling epiphany while looking into her freezer one hot summer night. The long, humorous roll of a couple's "four-night fight" finally explodes into happiness.
Beattie has often been called the chronicler of her generation, and these stories capture perfectly the moods and actions of our world since the seventies: people on the move, living in group houses, smoking too much dope; people settling down, splitting up, coming to terms.
Margaret Atwood said of a previous collection that "a new Beattie is almost like a fresh bulletin from the front: We snatch it up, eager to know what's happening out there on the edge of that shifting and dubious no-man's-land known as interpersonal relations." The new stories have the same power. A family secret is revealed in a strange and puzzling act that becomes understood only many years later. In an AIDS ward, certain questions take on special significance. A hostile eight-year-old and his father's live-in girlfriend move in fits and starts toward détente.
In prose by turns laserlike and lyrical, these memorable, evocative stories authentically recall the details and feelings of their time. But the truths revealed are--as in all fiction of the first rank--timeless.
Ann Beattie arrived on the literary scene in the early 1970s, publishing the first of her carefully understated short stories in the New Yorker and becoming something of a legend for the speed with which she worked--22 stories in a year, and a complete draft of her first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, in three weeks. Time has not slowed Beattie down--her fifth collection, Park City, follows hard on the heels of her fifth novel, My Life, Starring Dara Falcon, providing a kind of symmetry to her output. Lest you think Beattie is some kind of perpetual writing machine, however, be forewarned that only 8 of the 36 stories in this collection have not been previously published in book form; the rest are selected from earlier collections, thus offering an interesting survey of how the writer has changed--and how she hasn't.
From the start of her career, Beattie has been compared to Cheever and Updike, chroniclers of the chilly middle classes, and also to Raymond Carver, master practitioner of that school of literature known as minimalism. Beattie's stories seem smaller than life in some ways, depending as they do on an accretion of detail to round out her characters' lives. In her world, as in our own, there are no grand epiphanies, no moments of blinding realization. Instead, her characters muddle through their days in a series of small events that culminate in a whisper instead of a bang. In "Going Home with Uccello," for example, a woman on holiday with her lover in Italy watches him interact with a woman in a museum gift shop and realizes his true purpose for the trip is not to convince her to make a commitment to him, but rather to "persuade himself that he loved her so much that no one else could be a distraction--that no other woman could come between them." In "What Was Mine" another nameless narrator--male, this time--claims his inheritance from the man who had been his widowed mother's lover and the only father figure he'd ever known:
There was sheet music inside: six Billie Holiday songs that I recognized immediately as Herb's favorites for ending the last set of the evening. There were several notes, which I suppose you could call love notes, from my mother. There was a tracing, on a food-stained Merry Mariner place mat, of a cherry, complete with stem, and a fancy pencil-drawn frame around it that I vaguely remembered Herb having drawn one night. There was also a white envelope that contained the two pictures of one of the soldiers on Guam; one of a handsome young man looking impassively at a sleeping young baby. I knew the second I saw it that he was my father.Understanding, such as it is, comes in the quiet moments, in the exchange of glances in a gift shop, or the transposed captions on a couple of photographs.
Over the years, Beattie has continued to map the psychological and emotional territory of the urban, the educated, the neurotic middle class. On those occasions when her stories are set outside of New York--Vermont, Park City, Utah, Italy--her characters are generally from there, or at least from another large city such as Los Angeles. Beattie's prose has always been crisp, smart with just a touch of the smart aleck to it--on occasion she can be remarkably funny. But there's a chilliness in her stories that discourages the reader from getting too close, or investing too much. Her often nameless narrators tell their tales in the modulated tones of well-brought-up people for whom not wearing one's heart on one's sleeve is a religion. And yet in their spare revelations of loss and disappointment, their timid essays to the borderlands of hope, more often than not these characters do get under your skin. Depending on your tolerance for ambiguity, they can either irritate or captivate. Beattie's work tends to play to the intellect rather than the gut. For readers looking for a shot to the cerebellum, she satisfies; for those who prefer their fiction warm-blooded, Park City might be a trifle too cool. --Alix Wilber
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