* A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of the Year
A magnificent collection from award-winning author Ann Beattie—“profoundly intriguing and unsettling stories that abound in delectably witty and furious inner monologues, barbed dialogue, ludicrous predicaments, many faceted heartaches, and abrupt upswellings of affection, even love...always on point, funny, and poignant” (Booklist, starred review).
Ann Beattie’s “seamless combination of biting wit and mordant humor, precise irony, and consummate cool” is on full display in this astutely observed collection set along the East Coast from Maine to Key West, that explores unconventional friendships, frustrated loves, mortality, and aging. In The Accomplished Guest, people pay visits or receive visitors, travel to see old friends, and experience the joys and tolls of hosting company (and of being hosted). In some stories, as in life, what begins as a benign social event becomes a situation played for high stakes.
“Ann Beattie slips into a short story as flawlessly as Audrey Hepburn wore a Givenchy gown” (O, The Oprah Magazine), and the pieces in The Accomplished Guest—featuring recent O. Henry, Pushcart, and Best American Short Story selections—are marked by an undercurrent of loss and an unexpected element of violence, with Beattie’s signature mordant humor woven throughout. Some guests provide welcome diversions, others are uninvited interruptions, all are indelibly drawn.
Beattie “punctures her characters’ pretensions and jadedness with an economy and effortless dialogue that writers have been trying to emulate for three decades” (The New York Times Book Review). The Accomplished Guest is fresh, funny, and overwhelmingly “brilliant at furnishing the precise level of niggling complexity that is tragicomically real” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Growing old isn't easy, as the aging intellectuals of Beattie's latest story collection demonstrate. These 13 wry, chatty, seemingly random stories show disaffected husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children, professors and students in their 60s, 70s, and 80s at unsociable moments connected with social gatherings. In "The Indian Uprising," once-promising poet Maude lunches at a Washington, D.C., restaurant with her former poetry professor. He has heart trouble and diabetes, can barely walk, and faces dialysis, but it is Maude who, after running into her ex-husband, faints. "For the Best" follows former model Gerald to a New York City Christmas party where he expects to see his ex-wife. She doesn't appear until after he leaves the party, in the lobby of the hosts' apartment building, when she jumps out, very drunk, from behind a Christmas tree. "The Astonished Woodchopper" describes resentments surfacing at a wedding via an argument about who will go to the airport to pick up the bride's son. How childishly grown-ups can behave is made disturbingly clear in "The Debt," about friends from college days extracting a costly revenge. Women sharing confidences are interrupted by a hold-up man in "The Gypsy Chooses the Whatever Card." A sisterly reunion unravels in "Other People's Birthdays." Set in Maine, Charlottesville, East Coast cities, and Key West, Beattie's stories capture the perplexity of people, lost in a world of terrorists and Kindles, as they make their way down what Beattie calls "the river of life's confusion."