Ann Beattie : biography
Ann Beattie (born September 8, 1947) is an American short story writer and novelist. She has received an award for excellence from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the short story form. Her work has been compared to that of Alice Adams, J.D. Salinger, John Cheever, and John Updike. She holds an undergraduate degree from American University and a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut.
Beattie is married to painter Lincoln Perry. In 2005 the two collaborated on a published retrospective of Perry’s paintings. Entitled Lincoln Perry’s Charlottesville, the book contains an introductory essay and artist’s interview by Beattie. She was previously married to writer David Gates. While she was at the University of Connecticut, she developed a close friendship with Elaine Scarry.
Born in Washington, D.C., Beattie grew up in Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C.. She gained attention in the early 1970s with short stories published in The Western Humanities Review, Ninth Letter, the Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker. Critics have praised her writing for its keen observations and dry, matter-of-fact irony which chronicle disillusionments of the upper-middle-class generation that grew up in the 1960s. In 1976, she published her first book of short stories, Distortions, and her first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, later made into a film. Beattie’s style has evolved over the years. In 1998, she published Park City, a collection of old and new short stories, about which Christopher Lehman-Haupt wrote in the New York Times:[The stories] are arranged chronologically, which allows the reader to trace the development of the author’s technique. It also lets one see the contrast between the latest stories and the earliest, an experience of sufficient subtlety and complexity to reduce one in this limited space to the following gross generalizations: Gone is the deadpan style of the early and middle stories, in which Ms. Beattie lays out on a dissecting table the behavior of her disaffected post-counterculture yuppies and then leaves it up to the reader to do the anatomizing. Gone, too, are the stabs of lyricism of the middle period, particularly the endings that try poetically to recapitulate the story’s action but feel tacked on and artificial. .. In the best of these stories, Ms. Beattie’s ability both to commit herself and to knit her commitment into the finest needlework of her artistry contrasts sharply with the irritating moral passivity of her earlier work.Lehman-Haupt, Christopher New York Times (8 June 1998)
Beattie has taught at Harvard College and the University of Connecticut and presently teaches at the University of Virginia, where she is the Edgar Allan Poe Chair of the Department of English and Creative Writing. In 2005 she was selected as winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, in recognition of her outstanding achievement in that genre.
Her first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter (1976), was adapted as a film alternatively titled Chilly Scenes of Winter or Head Over Heels in 1979 by Joan Micklin Silver, starring John Heard, Mary Beth Hurt, and Peter Riegert. The first version was not well received by audiences, though upon its re-release in 1982, with a new title and ending, to match that in book, the movie was successful, and is now considered a cult classic. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.
Writing in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani called her most recent work, Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life (2011) "preposterous," "narcissistic," and "self-indulgent"—the "sort of pretentious volume that makes people hate academics." Dawn Raffel, in the San Francisco Chronicle, called the book "splendidly tricky", "at times… movingly lyrical", and said "Nothing in Mrs. Nixon is perfectly clear, and that is the source of its power."
Beattie’s papers are held by the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.