Park City: New and Selected Stories

Overview

For more than twenty-five years, Ann Beattie's short fiction has held a mirror up to America, portraying its awkwardly welded families, its loosely coupled couples, and much-uprooted children with acuity, humor, and compassion. This triumphant collection includes thirty-six of the finest stories of her career including eight new pieces that have not appeared in a book before.
Beattie's characters embark on stoned cross-country odysseys with lovers who may leave them before the ...
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Overview

For more than twenty-five years, Ann Beattie's short fiction has held a mirror up to America, portraying its awkwardly welded families, its loosely coupled couples, and much-uprooted children with acuity, humor, and compassion. This triumphant collection includes thirty-six of the finest stories of her career including eight new pieces that have not appeared in a book before.
Beattie's characters embark on stoned cross-country odysseys with lovers who may leave them before the engine cools. They comfort each other amid the ashes of failed relationships and in hospital waiting rooms. They try to locate themselves in a world where all the old landmarks have been turned into theme parks. Funny and sorrowful, fiercely compressed yet emotionally expansive, Park City is dazzling.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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."

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

Laura Green

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.
Library Journal
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
Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679781332
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1999
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.71 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 1.09 (d)

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

Table of Contents

Cosmos 3
Second Question 38
Going Home with Uccello 51
The Siamese Twins Go Snorkeling 58
Zalla 75
Ed and Dave Visit the City 82
The Four-Night Fight 90
Park City 100
Vermont 137
Wolf Dreams 154
Dwarf House 166
Snakes' Shoes 175
Secrets and Surprises 185
Weekend 196
A Vintage Thunderbird 211
Shifting 226
The Lawn Party 238
Colorado 251
Learning to Fall 273
The Cinderella Waltz 283
Jacklighting 300
Waiting 306
Desire 316
Greenwich Time 325
The Burning House 335
Janus 351
In the White Night 356
Heaven on a Summer Night 361
Summer People 368
Skeletons 381
Where You'll Find Me 386
The Working Girl 403
In Amalfi 410
What Was Mine 421
Windy Day at the Reservoir 431
Imagine a Day at the End of Your Life 474
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Interviews & Essays

On Friday, June 12th, the barnesandnoble.com Author Auditorium welcomed Ann Beattie, who joined us to chat about her latest collection of short stories, PARK CITY.



Moderator: Welcome to the Auditorium, Ann Beattie! We are so glad that you could join us tonight. How are you this evening?

Ann Beattie: Fine, thank you.


Paul from New York City: I know you have been writing for decades. What was the first story of yours that was published, and where did it appear? What was that feeling like to first see your work in print?

Ann Beattie: I think the first story of mine was in the Western Humanities Review in 1973, and it was thrilling, though the magazine is long lost. It is in a box of mine somewhere.


Scott from Brooklyn, NY: What motivated you to finally assemble a "best of" collection of your work? How did you decide which stories to include?

Ann Beattie: Actually, a friend suggested to me, because of the number of stores I had, that it might be a good idea to do a selected stories. Knopf thought it would be better to do a new and collected stories, but they gave me my choice. I wrote an essay about what it is like that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review for May 24-30, 1998. You can look that up. It probably is on the Web.


Teresa from Hartford, CT: I like the characters in your stories because I feel like they could be neighbors of mine and I am eavesdropping on an important conversation or event. For instance, in your new story "The 4 Night Fight." Where would you say you draw your inspiration for characters? Do they resemble people that you have met or loved?

Ann Beattie: In that particular case, when I finished writing it I read it to my husband in bed, and after reading it aloud he said it is only fair that the husband get a comeback.


Colleen from Portland, ME: Why do you think that you are not primarily a novelist? What attracts you to the short story form?

Ann Beattie: I don't know that it is a question so much of attraction, because that would make it sound like I think primarly in form. I think it is more a quesiton of sensiblity. In the same way one painter would have an eye for color and another would have an eye for composition. It seems it is something innate that is your predilection.


Monica from New York City: Are you ever frightened that the stories will just stop coming to you?

Ann Beattie: Oh, sure. I can't really think of a writer that wouldn't admit to that. It doesn't help the anxiety not to admit that. It is not so much a thing coming to you like you have had an epiphany. I think you worry as a writer that things would slop by you or pass you by. It isn't a quesiton of pure inspiration. The aspect of hard work is up to you, and you can worry about getting lazy.


Greg S. from Toronto, Canada: I heard that your first story was published in The New Yorker when you were just 25, and that you wrote your early stories in about three hours! Is this true? Also, do you still produce at such a rapid pace?

Ann Beattie: Yes. No.


Sharon from Charlottesville,VA: How would you distinguish your eight new stories from the rest of the collection? How long did it take you to write these?

Ann Beattie: I think that -- not to say they or better or worse -- sylistically they are somewhat different. The title story is quite a bit longer, with a lot of exposition. It is just more articulated and fully developed on the page. One distinction, in my very early work a lot of things happen between the lines and off the page, and that is not as true now. And the rough draft of "Park City" took about three days to write.


Carol from Boston, MA: I just started reading PARK CITY and love your new stories. Especially "Going Home with Uccello." After I read this story, I wondered if it is true that girlfriends tend to overanalyze their boyfriends' faults or put them under microscopes when they are deciding whether to commit to them? In your story, the main character second-guesses her boyfriend and his intentions throughout. What do you think? What were you intending to say in this story? Thanks.

Ann Beattie: Well, she is understood in the story pretty well. On one level the woman has little more than paranoia. It is not that I am trying to generalize about the human condition. I am really writing about that particular character or moment. Not to be confused with an essay I would write on the topic. That is not what a short story is. It is not a disguised essay.


Hannah from Boston, MA: Do you think a common cord or sentiment links your stories even though you wrote them over so many years? Were there issues you kept coming back to? Did you want to address anything different in the eight new stories? Thanks!

Ann Beattie: I didn't want to address anything different in the eight new stores. After you have been writing for a long time, your personal preoccupations become part of your stories. I don't think there is a commom core in the sense you say. Any writer only knows what they know. All the stories in the time periods are about things that have puzzled me in some sort. The common denominator might be what motivated me to write the story, but I don't see a great unity in them.


Paul from San Francisco, CA: "Second Question" is a great story. Did you title it after you wrote it? It is so true that someone like Ned would still believe "it can't happen to me" even after watching a friend die. AIDS can hit anyone, it seems, these day. What were you trying to say in this story?

Ann Beattie: I never answer part 2. What I was trying to say was there in the story. There is no story unless it was what I have said. I have never titled anything before I wrote it, including this one.


Greg from New York City: Writer Andre Dubus said that he feels that it is harder than ever to get a first novel published now. What do you think of the publishing scene these days? Would you advise authors to try small publishers first?

Ann Beattie: That is a difficult question for me. I was so out of the mainstream when I was published, I just wouldn't know. It has never been easy to get a first novel published. I would say that in number the publishers are publishing the same as they ever did, maybe more. You may have more competition among your fellow writers. The problem is partly caused by a middling amount of expertise. There are many competent writers. When I first started I didn't have as much compeition. If you looked at the number in the Iowa Writers Workshop -- I would bet the number would be a lot higher. One of the qualifications are you are just up against stiff compeition. If the publishers want the best they can publish -- it is their pick. They have the power.


Scott from San Francisco, CA: What would you say is the greatest challenge of being a writer? Would you advise someone to go down that route today?

Ann Beattie: Well, to answer the second part first. If you are really going to be a writer you aren't going to seriously consider whether you are going to do it or not. It is so much a question of your own personality. Any writer who is doing so today isn't doing it because of someone's good advice. For the first question, I think it is probably a question of proportion. That is, trying to make sure I am not too subtle. That enough is on the page but at the same time not overstating anything or going on too long. You have to rely on yourself for this, but you are not all readers. Another challenge is not to think whether it really matters in this culture.


Simon from Athens, GA: How do your stories come to you? Do you jot down ideas or thoughts and then sit on them for a while, or do you just sit down and write?

Ann Beattie: One of the most interesting things about writing the stories is that once I do store things away I realize I use information I didn't know was there. I usually start with a visual image. That is a way of orienting myself to a story. I have to see it before I can hear it. If I have set the scene so that it is evocative enough, then usually it reveals itself to me, rather than me projecting onto it.


Greta from Wichita, KS: I know this is a difficult question to answer, but if you were to say you had one strong point as a writer -- although I love all your work and believe they are all strong! -- which element comes easiest or most naturally to you? For example, character, plot, description, setting?

Ann Beattie: Dialogue. I don't think it is my best, but other people do. For me what gets the story going is strong visuals. I usualy stumble not in dialogue but in narrative. If I had to say, I would say the tone of voice is my strongest suit. I don't think I sound like ohter writers.


Stephanie from Park Slope, Brooklyn: What is your title story, "Park City," about? Why did you choose to name this collection after that particular story?

Ann Beattie: I let Knopf title it. I came up with good suggestions. phrases from all of the work that had not been used as a title per se, and I sent a list of about a dozen. I finally spoke to my editor and asked what would the publisher like to call my collection, and she said PARK CITY. That was that.


Pamela from Washington, DC: I really love your prose and find your stories very insightful, especially regarding people's behavior and speech. The plots are often unsettling, though. Do you think a story is more effective if it makes a social commentary?

Ann Beattie: It may be evasive, but I don't think these stores out beforehand. If something doesn't happen in the course of the story that changes it, it doesn't get written about at all. All of the stories are like a train that has gotten derailed.


Reagan from Miami, FL: What do you consider your best story or novel and why?

Ann Beattie: I think ANOTHER YOU is my best novel. Certainly the most ambitious. It is complicated in terms of psychology, and the from it takes is complicated. That's from a tech standpoint. I have always been interested in people's secret lives. It wasn't till I wrote ANOTHER YOU that I realized I could reveal things that the characters didn't know. I want to write a book as though the characters themselves might have presented it, but at the same time becuase you the reader know more than the characters, all you can see is that they are telling the most true story they know, but you know perfectly well it isn't the real true story.


Elise from Brooklyn, NY: What are you working on now? Any new stories on the way? Thanks for this marvelous collection!

Ann Beattie: I am working on another novel, but I don't want to talk about it in advance, because like a lot of other writers I think that it brings bad luck.


Samantha from New York City: I see that you and Andre Dubus are signing together at the New York Barnes & Noble. Are you touring together also?

Ann Beattie: No, not really. We have two or three bookstore appearances together.


Nadine from Houston, TX: Do you think the literary environment has changed drastically since you first began writing in the '70s? How?

Ann Beattie: If you mean the culture as a whole, yes, I do think so. I don't think that the audience for serious fiction has disappeared, but I am convinced that there are different evolutionary stages in life. While reading is intesting to poeple in their 20s and 30s, they may not be interested later on. If you are talking about serious literature I think it is imperiled. Also serious critics who really can illuminate. Clearly this is no longer the age of Diana Trilling or Edmund Wilson or Jacques Barzun. There are many people who aspire to that position, but I don't think we do have as many Alfred Kazins in our midst.


Scott from Miami, FL: Do you read the reviews of your books? How do they affect you?

Ann Beattie: I always did read the reviews, and while I have had bad reviews, Michiko Kakutani's review of my last novel in The New York Times was so ugly that it has put me off reviews. I now feel I will look very quickly, and if my husband says it is essentially OK I will read it quickly.


Moderator: Thank you for joining us to chat tonight, Ann Beattie. It has been a pleasure, and we of course look forward to having you with us again sometime! Before you go, do you have anything else you would like to say to your online audience?

Ann Beattie: No, no general benediction. Thanks.


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