Walks with Men

Walks with Men

3.1 7
by Ann Beattie
     
 

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Ann Beattie arrived in New York young, observant and celebrated (as The New Yorker’s young fiction star) in one of the most compelling and creative eras of recent times. So does the protagonist of her intense new novella, Walks with Men.

It is 1980 in New York City, and Jane, a valedictorian fresh out of Harvard, strikes a deal with Neil,See more details below

Overview

Ann Beattie arrived in New York young, observant and celebrated (as The New Yorker’s young fiction star) in one of the most compelling and creative eras of recent times. So does the protagonist of her intense new novella, Walks with Men.

It is 1980 in New York City, and Jane, a valedictorian fresh out of Harvard, strikes a deal with Neil, an intoxicating writer twenty years her senior. The two quickly become lovers, living together in a Chelsea brownstone, and Neil reveals the rules for a life well lived: If you take food home from a restaurant, don’t say it’s because you want leftovers for "the dog." Say that you want the bones for "a friend who does autopsies." If you can’t stand on your head (which is best), learn to do cartwheels. Have sex in airplane bathrooms. Wear only raincoats made in England. Neil’s certainties, Jane discovers, mask his deceptions. Her true education begins.

"One of our era’s most vital masters of the short form" (The Washington Post), Beattie brilliantly captures a time, a place and a style of engagement. Her voice is original and iconic.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The 16th work of fiction by Beattie (Follies, 2005, etc.), which begins in 1980. Jane, recent Harvard valedictorian and already a semi-celebrity in literary circles, leaves rural Vermont (and a boyfriend who's in mid-metamorphosis from Ben the Juilliard-trained musician to a bedraggled mystic called Goodness) for New York, where she falls for a wealthy writer two decades older. Glib, commanding and unpredictable, Neil is a Svengali who promises to teach her the ways of the world. He tends to distill his wisdom into epigrams and truisms ("Don't use hair conditioner. Electricity is sexy"). Jane finds him intoxicating, and they become lovers. One day, in a scene Beattie works ingenious variations on later, Jane arrives home to find a pretty middle-aged woman waiting on the stoop. Neil is married, it turns out; his wife has discovered the affair and is leaving him. Jane dismisses him, too, but before long she's drawn back, a moth to the flamethrower. They marry, then spar with great verbal resourcefulness. Both have dry spells and successes (a screenwriting Oscar for Jane, books for Neil). But one day Neil leans across a cafe table, clutches Jane's hand and announces that he's going to disappear. Minutes later, he does-forever-and Jane is left holding the bag. Beattie hasn't lost her touch. She skillfully lays bare the anomie and self-destructiveness-and also the vulnerability-of talented youth, and her evocation of early-'80s Manhattan is spot-on. But the book seems diffuse, and the name-dropping and hints at semi-autobiography can make it seem like a vanity project or an outtake. Beattie's talent remains formidable, but this is pretty thin.
Publishers Weekly
Beattie (Follies) turns a clinical eye on young love in this moody period piece about Jane Jay Costner, who, just out of college in 1980, is given the opportunity to learn the ways of the world and of love from an older man. The affair is proposed as an intellectual experiment, and the reader cringes as young Jane becomes deeply involved with Neil, an older writer who is, predictably, married and no great catch besides. He offers a stream of pretentious aphorisms (“When you travel to Europe, never wear a fragrance from the country you're in”) that Jane initially admires but eventually distrusts. But even as her dislike for her lover grows, she becomes ever more entrenched. Beattie's talent as a prose stylist is evident: the sentences are gorgeous and there isn't a word out of place, but emotion is subdued to the point of aloofness, leaving the reader with little more than idle concern for Jane. Beattie effortlessly conjures 1980s New York, but the human terrain could be less muted. (June)
From the Publisher
“All women who have thought ‘run!’ — but did not run — will experience this book like a familiar dream. It's full of echoes and resonant fractures, and so beguiling in its eerie simplicity. I read it twice.”—Miranda July, author of No One Belongs Here More Than You

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439168707
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
06/08/2010
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
225,452
File size:
2 MB

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