The Burning House

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The now-classic, utterly unique voice of Ann Beattie is so dry it throws off sparks, her eye endowed with the emotional equivalent of X-ray vision. Her characters are young men and women discovering what it means to be a grown-up in a country that promised them they'd stay young forever. And here, in shapely, penetrating stories, Beattie confirms why she is one of the most widely imitated — yet surely inimitable — literary stylists of her generation.

In The Burning House, ...

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Burning House

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Overview

The now-classic, utterly unique voice of Ann Beattie is so dry it throws off sparks, her eye endowed with the emotional equivalent of X-ray vision. Her characters are young men and women discovering what it means to be a grown-up in a country that promised them they'd stay young forever. And here, in shapely, penetrating stories, Beattie confirms why she is one of the most widely imitated — yet surely inimitable — literary stylists of her generation.

In The Burning House, Beattie's characters go from dealing drugs to taking care of a bereaved friend. They watch their marriages fail not with a bang but with a wisecrack. And afterward, they may find themselves trading confidences with their spouses' new lovers. The Burning House proves that Beattie has no peer when it comes to revealing the hidden shapes of our relationships, or the depths of tenderness, grief, and anger that lie beneath the surfaces of our daily lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Reads 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 relationships."--The New York Times Book Review

"Burning brilliance.... This collection of short stories is the work of a writer with a dazzling gift.... Beattie's eye is clear, her ear finely tuned, her mind brilliantly odd.... A joy to read."--Chicago Sun-Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345310415
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/12/1983
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback

Meet the Author

Ann  Beattie
Born in 1947, Ann Beattie grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., attended college at American University, and went on to do graduate work in English literature at the University of Connecticut. She began writing stories out of frustration with her doctoral work. After rejecting twenty-two submissions, The New Yorker published Beattie's "A Platonic Relationship" in 1974, and Beattie became a regular contributor to the magazine. Her first collection of stories, Distortions, and her first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, appeared simultaneously in 1976 and initiated a long-standing critical debate as to whether Beattie's greater strength is in the story or the novel. All critics agree, however, on the uniqueness of her style and her uncanny ability to expose certain truths about contemporary life, particularly as it lived by those of her own generation and social class. She lives in Maine and Key West with her husband, the painter Lincoln Perry.

Biography

After publishing several stories in The New Yorker, Ann Beattie burst on the literary scene in 1976 with not one, but two books -- a collection of short fiction entitled Distortions and a critically acclaimed debut novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter. Almost immediately, she was proclaimed the unofficial diarist of an entire generation, evoking the lives of feckless, young, middle-class baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s yet never really grew up, choosing instead to lug around their dashed expectations like so much excess baggage.

Indeed, Beattie's fiction is filled with such unhappy characters -- intelligent, well-educated people whose lives are steeped in disappointment and a vague sense of despair. Failed relationships, nostalgia for the past, and the inability to reconcile youthful idealism with the demands of adult life are recurring themes in short story collections like Secrets and Surprises (1978), What Was Mine (1991), and Park City (1998), as well as novels such as Falling in Place (1981), Love Always (1985), and Another You (1995).

Yet, Beattie vehemently denies that she set out to chronicle an era or to describe a particular demographic. ''I do not wish to be a spokesperson for my generation,'' she told The New York Times in 1985. She explained further (in the literary magazine Ploughshares) that she simply wrote about the people who surrounded her -- refugees from the '60s, bewildered by the real world and longing to return to the seductive counterculture of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

A writer of spare, elegant, whip-smart prose, Beattie has been classified as a minimalist, a label she rejects as reductive. In many ways, though, her writing fits the bill. Her stories, like those of minimalism's famous poster boy (and Beattie's good friend) Raymond Carver, are composed of simple, declarative sentences teeming with irony and finely observed detail; also like Carver, she is a nonjudgmental narrator, completely detached from her characters and their actions and meting out contextual clues to be interpreted by the reader. However, as she has matured as a writer, she has traded in strict minimalism for a more realistic style, endowing her characters with emotions (and something of an inner life!) and rendering her fiction more fully "human."

Occasionally, Beattie has come under attack for loading her stories with brand names and pop culture references. But even this use of "Kmart realism" seems not to have dimmed her light. Reviewing her 2008 anthology Follies for The New York Times, David Means had this to say: "[W]hen Beattie's work is clicking her stories are wonderful to behold. Her best work ... will endure long after so much of what we know now -- the brand names, television shows and quick-shop stores -- is gone."

Good To Know

Beattie's first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, was adapted into a film by Joan Micklin Silver starring John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt. It was first released in 1979 as Head Over Heels with an unsatisfying, tacked-on happy ending. Audiences were lukewarm. In 1982, the movie was re-released under the novel's title and with an ending that matched the book. This version was a success.

Beattie is married to the painter Lincoln Perry. In 2005 the two collaborated on a retrospective of Perry's paintings entitled Lincoln Perry's Charlottesville, boasting a long essay and interview by Beattie.

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    1. Hometown:
      Maine and Key West, Florida
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 8, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A., American University, 1969; M.A., University of Connecticut, 1970

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