Picturing Will

Overview

Picturing Will, the widely acclaimed new novel by Ann Beattie, unravels the complexities of a postmodern family. There's Will, a curious five-year-old who listens to the heartbeat of a plant through his toy stethoscope; Jody, his mother, a photographer poised on the threshold of celebrity; Mel, Jody's perfect -- perhaps too perfect -- lover; and Wayne, the rather who left Will without warning and now sees his infrequent visits as a crimp in his bedhopping. Beattie shows us how these lives intersect, attract, and ...
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Picturing Will

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Overview

Picturing Will, the widely acclaimed new novel by Ann Beattie, unravels the complexities of a postmodern family. There's Will, a curious five-year-old who listens to the heartbeat of a plant through his toy stethoscope; Jody, his mother, a photographer poised on the threshold of celebrity; Mel, Jody's perfect -- perhaps too perfect -- lover; and Wayne, the rather who left Will without warning and now sees his infrequent visits as a crimp in his bedhopping. Beattie shows us how these lives intersect, attract, and repel one another with dazzling shifts and moments of heartbreaking directness.

The widely acclaimed new novel by Ann Beattie unravels the complexities of a postmodern family. "Positively shines. . . . The language is inspired, rhapsodic and true. Beattie has created a surprising, lyrical and deeply affecting work."--The New York Times Book Review.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this meditation on psychic survival in the 1980s, five-year-old Will adapts to unconventional family life with his single mother, his philandering father and his mother's lover. PW remarked that although the book flounders in parts, ``Beattie offers gimlet insights on the compromises of marriage, men's emotional armor, sex as escape, the terrors of childhood.'' Jan.
Library Journal
Beattie here aims to flesh out her characteristically bone-thin writing, but the skeleton still shows through. Aspiring photographer Jody, abandoned by husband Wayne--now on his third wife--is deeply devoted to her young son Will but hesitant to commit to lover Mel. Still, she visits Mel in faraway New York City, where Mel's friend, gallery owner Haverford whose name she can recall only as Haveabud, takes a shine to her work--or to her. When Mel takes Will to visit his father in Florida, Haveabud goes along for the ride, bringing Spencer, a former protege's son with whom he engages in sexual acts shockingly direct in their description. Meanwhile, Wayne demonstrates his continued instability by cheating flagrantly on his new wife, Corky. As the story moves from life to life, we see the characters more fully, as in multiple exposures; but this approach does not so much enrich our understanding as distance us from the characters. A pity; there are some insightful comments here, and some sharp, bright writing. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/89.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679731948
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/2/1991
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,016,944
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann  Beattie
Ann Beattie
To many readers, Ann Beattie was the diarist for a whole cross-section of American society. Wryly chronicling the confusion and disillusionment of a generation stuck with the free-love era's hangover, the prolific short story writer and novelist set the tone for coming of age in the '70s and after.

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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