With WordTheatre’s “Ann Beattie and Her Stories” fast approaching, we’re going to take a look at some of Beattie’s best work.
Ann Beattie first gained prominence as a writer in the early 1970’s with her stories about “the disaffected post-counterculture yuppies” who grew up during the 60’s. In “Yancey,” her most recent short story published in The Paris Review, Beattie shows us the unspeakable loneliness throbbing in the hearts of two unlikely foils. Though a writer and IRS agent meet one afternoon under professional pretexts, their inner lives are deeply, almost unavoidably illuminated by their sincere, clumsy attempts to connect with one another in a human way.
The recluse narrator of “Yancey” is a woman, a writer, and ten years Beattie’s senior. She lives completely alone except for Yancey, her dog. One day, she is visited by an IRS agent for a cursory tax-related checkup. The writer discerns his unhappiness and, on impulse, invites him to stay with her and help look after her and her dog, Yancey.
When the agent asks Beattie’s narrator to recommend him a poem, she reads him “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” by James Wright. Though he first reacts negatively to it, and clearly does not understand the poem, he kindly tries to show that he appreciates it. But once talk of taxes ends, they must go their separate ways. They both need something in their lives, yet neither one seems able to find it, or even name it.
Ann Beattie will be joining WordTheatre on Sunday, September 20th for a reading of some of her finest works. Afterwards, there will be a Q&A and a book signing. We feel privileged to collaborate with such a sensitive and prolific artist, and we invite every lover of literature and performance to come enjoy this tremendous afternoon.
You can find “Yancey” in The Paris Review. Ann Beattie’s most recent book, The New Yorker Stories, is available through Scribner.