Park City: New and Selected Stories

Ann Beattie, Author Alfred A. Knopf $25 (464p) ISBN 978-0-679-45506-6
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 design--are 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. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
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