Ann Beattie’s intimate, observational prose made her a unique voice for the baby boomers of the 1970’s and 80’s. Her narratives often explore the subtle struggle of her main characters – how they reconcile their bleak home lives with their complex, sometimes paradoxical personal beliefs, desires, and fantasies. “Janus,” published in 1985, is Beattie at her best. It explores the inner life of a young woman, Andrea, and her superstitious attachment to an object.
Andrea is a very successful real estate agent, and she attributes her success to an understated decorative bowl. Not publicly, though. Andrea hasn’t told anyone about this good luck charm, not even her husband. When she hopes to make a sale, she shows up to a house early and places the bowl in flattering, strategic positions. Its strange beauty captures people’s attention without fail.
The bowl is more than just a talisman of good fortune, however. To Andrea, it is something that she actually loves. She develops a relationship with the bowl – she questions this relationship, but recognizes it all the same. There is a relationship between them. Her attachment reaches such heights that she begins to feel a pervading sense of anxiety: what if the bowl should be destroyed?
Typical with Beattie’s stories, we find ourselves propelled to the very final page before the revelation is complete. We at WordTheatre feel very lucky that this remarkable author will be joining us at The Microsoft Lounge on September 20th for a hand-picked performance of some of her most powerful works. After the main event, there will be a Q&A and book signing.
“Janus” can be enjoyed in full here. Ann Beattie’s most recent book, The New Yorker Stories, is available through Scribner.