Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, January 11, 2016
The State We’re In by Ann Beattie review – short story maven is still a true original
In her first new collection in a decade, the US writer wrongfoots the reader with understated power
When short-story specialist Ann Beattie rose to prominence in the 1970s, her originality and ability to capture the flavour and disposition of the times led to the idea of a “Beattie generation”; decades later, what makes her so influential is still clear. The 15 stories in this collection, her first in a decade, are centred on Maine, tucked high up in America’s north-eastern corner, home to affluent coast dwellers and host to all manner of visitors. In Beattie’s understated but powerful vignettes, “time-warp hippies cross paths with people who live in brownstones and don’t have to think about money”; a bored teenager is dispatched to stay with her aunt and uncle and rebels by streaking her hair pink; a writer comes to quiz an elderly woman about her experiences of Truman Capote and Robert Lowell. Dense with off-kilter insight and suggestive characterisation, these are pieces that wrongfoot you in the best way. The State We’re In is published by Granta (£12.99).