“I’ve never heard anything like that. The last line comes out of nowhere.”

beattie2This line from a conversation between a seventy-seven year-old poet and an IRS agent about a poem by James Wright in the short story “Yancey” is vintage Ann Beattie: it’s an astute comment in an unusual situation by characters who come to each other from unanticipated angles, and who happen to articulate the response that most people have had to Beattie’s work during the last four decades. Her stories are known for their “open-ended capaciousness.” In a recent interview, she described how she likes to set up jokes in writing. We have one here, and it’s worth savoring and remembering.

Ann Beattie, The State We’re In: Maine Stories (New York: Scribner, 2015), 50.


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