"We build worlds for ourselves wherever we go," writes Ann Beattie. The State We're In, her magnificent new collection of linked stories, 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.
The New Yorker: A Fiction Trio features short stories by three masters of the form: "Path Light" by Tom Drury: A carelessly tossed bottle nearly misses a man and his dog and begins a quest to find out who threw it; "Coping Stones" by Ann Beattie: A neighbor's secrets unsettle a small Maine town; "The View from Castle Rock" by Alice Munro: A family emigrates from Scotland to Canada in 1818 with visions of their lives in the new world.
"He'd tell me anything, anything, as long as the information went unattributed, as long as no one knew he and I had even met." Such is the deal Jane, Harvard valedictorian fresh out of college, strikes with Neil, the intoxicating writer 20 years her senior. It is 1980 in New York City, and the two quickly become lovers, living together in a Chelsea brownstone. Jane is infatuated, but dark secrets lie beneath Neil's polished surface.
An impeccable ear for language, an eye for the smallest shifts in the cultural landscape, and a preternatural understanding of motivation and behavior, Ann Beattie's renowned storytelling abilities are on dazzling display in The Doctor's House. The novel opens with Nina's account of her brother's sexual appetites and betrayals, and leads into her mother's narrative.
Pat Nixon remains one of our most mysterious and intriguing public figures, the only modern First Lady who never wrote a memoir. Beattie, like many of her generation, dismissed Richard Nixon's wife: "interchangeable with a Martian," she said. Decades later, she wonders what it must have been like to be married to such a spectacularly ambitious and catastrophically self-destructive man. Drawing on a wealth of sources Beattie reconstructs dozens of scenes in an attempt to see the world from Mrs. Nixon's point of view.