Picturing Will

Ann Beattie, Author
Ann Beattie, Author Random House (NY) $18.95 (230p) ISBN 978-0-394-56987-1
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
Beattie's ( Love Always ) first novel in five years is an understated meditation on psychic survival in the 1980s. Jody is a wedding photographer in Virginia, a struggling artist and a single mother with a bright 5-year-old son, Will. Jody's boyfriend Mel wants her to marry him and move to New York City, where he works in an art gallery. As the flat, pared-down narrative prismatically shifts between characters' viewpoints, we see Will molded by traumatic or random events: his philandering, remarried father, a Florida handyman, is taken away in a drug bust; and Haveabud, his mom's effete, bisexual, art-world mentor, fondles stepson Spencer, who then involves Will in bizarre games. An italicized lyric monologue threading through the novel underscores the tribulations of parenting. In a coda, we meet Will 20 years later, with a son of his own. The Florida section flounders, but Beattie offers gimlet insights on the compromises of marriage, men's emotional armor, sex as escape, the terrors of childhood. (Jan.)