Ann Beattie

The New Yorker Stories
Ann Beattie: The New Yorker Stories. Scribner. Nov. 2010. c.528p. ISBN 9781439168745. $30. F
In this book of 48 of her short stories published in The New Yorker magazine, Beattie captures four decades of relationship difficulties. Beginning in the 1970s, the stories feature characters who have lost their way: pot-smoking, jobless drifters; spacey women in dying marriages; children caught in their parents' breakups. Beattie's staccato prose and abrupt endings leave one to wonder, not unpleasantly, what the future holds for these characters. In her later works, Beattie's voice warms and expands as her stories become richer and fuller, with an added sense of humor. Standout titles in this time period include "The Rabbit Hole as Likely Explanation," which relates a middle-aged woman's struggle to deal with her very funny aging mother; and "That Last Odd Day in L.A.," where a widower's sharp wit ostracizes him from everyone in Hollywood but his rich niece and nephew.
VERDICT This is a fine collection of stories about characters whose failures to connect with others become Beattie's success as she astutely and wittily plumbs the depths of human relations.
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