“Ann Beattie at her most magnificent…Her first new collection in ten years...These tales explore the range of emotional states the author is famous for: longing, disaffection, ambivalence, love, regret. It’s nice to hear her voice again” (People).
“A peerless, contemplative page-turner” (Vanity Fair), The State We’re In is about how we live in the places we have chosen—or been chosen by. It’s about the stories we tell our families, our friends, and ourselves, the truths we may or may not see, how our affinities unite or repel us, and where we look for love.
Many of these stories are set in Maine, but The State We’re In is about more than geographical location. Some characters have arrived in Maine by accident, others are trying to escape. The collection is woven around Jocelyn, a wry, disaffected teenager living with her aunt and uncle while attending summer school. As in life, the narratives of other characters interrupt Jocelyn’s, sometimes challenging, sometimes embellishing her view.
“Ann Beattie slips into a short story as flawlessly as Audrey Hepburn wore a Givenchy gown: an iconic presentation, each line and fold falling into place but allowing room for surprise” (O, The Oprah Magazine). “Splendid...memorable...every page…fitted out with the blessed finery of hypnotic storytelling” (The Washington Post), these stories describe a state of mind, a manner of being. The State We’re In explores, through women’s voices, the unexpected moments and glancing epiphanies of daily life.
The 15 loosely connected stories in Beattie's latest collection, set on Maine's southern coast, feature drifting adults and their rootless offspring at seemingly unimportant moments that are in fact critical. In "What Magical Realism Would Be," a high school student living with her aunt and uncle rants about summer school. "Writing essays was retarded," Jocelyn asserts. "It totally was." Jocelyn prefers nights on the beach with friends. "Road Movie" describes an unlucky tryst at a California hotel; "The Fledgling" shows an ungainly attempt to rescue a wayward bird; Elvis lamps are auctioned off in "The Repurposed Barn," in which Jocelyn sees her teacher in a new light. "Adirondack Chairs" uses furniture to reflect a couple's abandoned future; in "The Little Hutchinsons," a wedding hosted by the titular characters goes awry. In "Missed Calls," an encounter between a photographer's widow and a writer distracted by concern for his stepdaughter starts with the widow's memory of Truman Capote but becomes an unsettling view of the stepdaughter and her family. "Major Maybe," in which a Portland doctor remembers 1980s New York, begins with a woman getting hit by a car, then weaves its way back to the narrator, her roommate, and the flower in their apartment window. The collection demonstrates Beattie's craftsmanship, precise language, and her knack for revealing psychological truths.