Program Type:Special Event, Author Talk
As deeply rewarding as her fiction, a selection of Ann Beattie’s essays, chosen and introduced by the author. From appreciations of writers, photographers, and other artists, to notes on the craft of writing itself, this is a wide-ranging, and always penetrating collection of writing never before published in book form.
Ann Beattie, a master storyteller, has been delighting readers since the publication of her short stories in the 1970s and her first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter. But as her literary acclaim grew and she was hailed “the voice of her generation,” Ms. Beattie was also moonlighting as a nonfiction writer. As she writes in her introduction to this collection, “Nonfiction always gave me a thrill, even if it provided only an illusion of freedom. Freedom and flexibility—for me, those are the conditions under which imagination sparks.”
These penetrating essays are stories unto themselves, closely observed appreciations of life and art. The reader travels with Ms. Beattie to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to learn about the legacy of the painter, Grant Wood, and his iconic painting American Gothic; to the famed University of Virginia campus with her husband, the painter Lincoln Perry; to Key West, Florida for New Years with writer and translator, Harry Mathews; to a roadside near Boston in a broken-down car with the wheelchair-bound writer Andre Dubus.
There are explorations of novels, short stories, paintings, and photographs by artists ranging from Alice Munro to Elmore Leonard, from Sally Mann to John Loengard. Whatever the subject, Ms. Beattie brings penetrating insight into literature and art that’s both familiar and unfamiliar—as she writes, “This, I think, is what artists want to do: Find a way to lure the reader or viewer into an alternate realm, to overcome the audience’s resistance to being taken away from their own lives and interests and priorities.”
Ann Beattie’s nonfiction (originally published in Life, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The American Scholar, and 21st Editions: The Journal of Contemporary Photography, among others) is a new way to enjoy one of the great writers of her generation. Readers will find much to love in this journey with a curious and fascinating mind.
Ann Beattie has published twenty-one books and lives with her husband, the painter Lincoln Perry, in Maine. She is a recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award for achievement in the short story, the Rea Award for the Short Story, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.