From the Publisher
"There is a kind of magnificence to Ann Beattie's Park City. . . . One feels amazed at the confidence, steadiness and quality of [her work]." The New York Times Book Review (front page)
"Like a boxed set of Miles Davis CDs . . . both superb in itself and an essential piece of history. . . . [Beattie is] one of our era's most vital masters of the short form." The Washington Post Book World
"Graceful and rewarding." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Beattie has a facility . . . that is breathtaking, a fluidity that delights. . . . [She is] one of the most influential short-fiction writers of her generation." Newsday
The Barnes & Noble Review
"A generous, very welcome volume of stories from one of the most influential masters of the form." Publishers Weekly
Famous for her spare, unsentimental fiction about aimless youth and ambivalent love, Ann Beattie has often been called the chronicler of her generation. Since her work first appeared in The New Yorker more than two decades ago, Beattie's stories have lost none of their wistful appeal or satirical bite. And neither has the author.
The 36 stories of Park City including eight published for the first time, plus a generous selection from her earlier collections give us Ann Beattie at stunning midcareer. Park City captures perfectly the moods and actions of our world in the '70s, '80s, and '90s: people on the go, living in group houses, smoking too much weed, contracting AIDS, and dying young; or getting jobs, settling down, having children, splitting up, coming to terms, and looking back on life.
Emotionally complex, insightful, and funny, the stories of Park City cover a wide range of tone and feeling. To Beattie fans, her themes will ring familiar. A woman grieving over a lost child comforts her husband with an extraordinary act of tenderness. A peripatetic man tries to ground himself in the universe. An intricate dance of adultery breaks up a marriage. A housekeeper experiences a startling epiphany while looking into her freezer one steamy summer evening. The long, comic roll of a couple's "four-night fight" finally explodes into joy. In an AIDS ward, particular questions take on special meaning.
Inproseboth lyrical and searing, these memorable, evocative stories recall the details and emotions of past and present eras. They speak to our minds and our hearts and are truly timeless. Kirkus Reviews says, "Beattie's spare, unfussy style, her pitch-perfect ear for the manner in which we really speak to one another, and her sharp analysis of the ways in which disaffection and loss deform relationships and character are all abundantly on display here.... Beattie is a perceptive and unsettling writer."
The young, mostly female protagonists of the 36 "new and selected" stories in Park City, and their mostly unsuccessful romantic negotiations, will be familiar to readers of Ann Beattie's previous work; indeed, only eight of these stories are new. This collection doesn't make for uplifting reading. Couples repeatedly part and recombine; familiar or exotic locations -- Vermont, New York, Key West -- become interchangeable settings for betrayal; and breast cancer, accidents and (in the later stories) AIDS add physical to emotional loss. Individually, however, many of the stories offer brief, unlikely moments of connection that rescue them from cynicism.
In "Cosmos," for example, a schoolteacher responds sympathetically to her boyfriend's 8-year-old son's confession of wrongdoing: "'Tell me you'll fix it before I tell you' he says ... Such a large, all-encompassing request, but why not try? To have an automatic guarantee, no matter what, that the other person would do what you wanted ... After childhood, who would dare ask?" Jason's confession recommits the protagonist to her relationship even as she realizes that not only Jason, but also his father and she herself, have failed each other in different ways. In the title story, the protagonist attempts to protect her sister, her niece and the daughter of her sister's boyfriend from the threat of violence implicit in the sexual negotiations of a ski resort holiday. These characters are rewarded for their efforts with visions of beauty arising from chaos. The schoolteacher in "Cosmos" reflects on the long-ago death of her boyfriend's parents: "What could it have been like, to fall out of the sky over Anchorage, Alaska, into endless drift of snow? For a few seconds there must have been such color in the air: the engine sparking; detritus blown like confetti, far and wide; a free fall of bright winter clothes."
When the characters and situations are less fully imagined, the recurrent revelations of betrayal can seem tired. "Going Home with Uccello," for example, remains the trite summary its protagonist imagines: "This going-with-your-sometimes-girlfriend to beautiful Italia for a romantic rendezvous in the fall and flirting with whoever got your attention in a shop that sold reproductions of the old masters." At her best, however, Beattie surrounds her moments of heightened perception with unexpected details that compel our sympathy and belief. The brief, humorous "The Four-Night Fight," for example, evokes the arbitrary suddenness with which a relationship can descend into conflict: "In the seconds preceding the fight, she had been perfectly happy, scooping the center out of a cantaloupe. Henry had become diabetic, so they no longer had cookies for dessert, only fruit. She kept a package of Chips Ahoy hidden behind boxes of Tide in the laundry room, but she'd lost her taste for sweets, suddenly."
Beattie's fictional landscape is often a bleak one. But the stories are worth reading not only for their lacerating evocations of baby-boomer anomie, but also for the moments of revelation she occasionally, but ungrudgingly, offers. -- Salon
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Remarking in an author's note that the same first names keep popping up in her work, Beattie (My Life Starring Dara Falcon, 1997, etc.) writes that she "intended no linkage from story to story though there are a few in-jokes, of course." In fact, her stories are the in-jokes of an era. Since they first appeared in The New Yorker in the 1970s, her early chronicles of aimless youth, ambivalent love and fractured families have lost none of their wistful appeal or satirical bite. Neither has their author, as the eight new stories published here prove. To Beattie fans, her themes will be familiar. If the new work has a certain emphasis, it's surrogate parenthood. In the hilarious Cosmos, a schoolteacher resists marriage to a man she met through a personals ad and takes guilty pleasure in exaggerating the foibles of his hyperactive, destructive little son for the amusement of her Japanese pupils. In the title story, a woman spends a week at an off-season Utah ski resort with her half-sister Janet "more or less looking after Janet's boyfriend's daughter, Lyric (fourteen), who is in turn looking after Janet's child, my niece, Nell (three)." The narrator's efforts to take care of the two girls thrown temporarily together, like their self-centered parents, more by bad luck than designare convincing, touching and (as always in Beattie's short fiction) funny. Re-reading the older work, one wishes that the 36-story collection were more comprehensive (one misses such gems as Fancy Flights or Friends), but this is a small complaint about a generous, very welcome volume of stories from one of the most influential masters of the form.
The title story of this new collection from Beattie (My Life, Starring Dara Falcon, LJ 5/15/97) includes exquisitely drawn, completely believable portraits of three women ranging in age from three to 14 to 31. It is as beautiful, fully realized a story as this reviewer has ever read. Dwarf House is another satisfying tale that brilliantly evokes the collective pain of a family's dealing with one of its members being a dwarf. It successfully follows the dwarf's stuggle from childhood to adulthood, and the ending is both welcome and persuasive. Not all the stories are as satisfying; some have indeterminant endings close with a significant-sounding sentence or phrase that the reader is left to ponderor not. But the best of Beattie's stories should please any reader. For all fiction collections.
--Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence College
This compilation of 36 tales, with eight never before published in book form and the remainder drawn from this prolific author's five story collections, starkly illuminates Beattie's strengths and limitations. Her spare, unfussy style, her pitch-perfect ear for the manner in which we really speak to one another, and her sharp analysis of the ways in which disaffection and loss deform relationships and character are all abundantly on display here. As in Beattie's novels (My Life, Starring Dara Falcon, 1997; Another You, 1995, etc.), the best of these tales (including Where You'll Find Me, Learning to Fall, and Waiting) offer a unique portrait of American anomie; her characters know that they are lost, are desperate to make contact, but are also deeply wary of doing soþthey are deeply hurting and hidden by turns. But Beattie walks a delicate line, and frequently her depiction of alienation becomes itself alienating, and her chill vision (as in, say, Where You'll Find Me) becomes a bit too insistent and unvaried. At her best, Beattie is a perceptive and unsettling writer; at other times, her portraits seem formulaically downbeat and unpersuasive. Both versions are on display here.