Ann Beattie

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Ann Beattie Biography

Ann Beattie is something of a paradox. Though she taught for several years (and even went to graduate school herself), she remains ambivalent about the benefits of university writing programs. By her own admission, she values education but does not always see a clear correlation between school and the eventual growth and development of a young writer. Beattie's own growth as a writer, however, is clearly attributable to her success in the short story form. In her hands, a short story is as satisfying as a long novel, but still has the force of a quick, hard punch. Now considered one of the most important literary voices of the turbulent 1960s, Beattie frequently explores the strange, unpredictable nature of familial and romantic relationships.

Facts and Trivia

  • Beattie has received many honors, including a PEN award, for her achievement in the short story form.
  • Beginning writers, take heart. Beattie had more than twenty of her stories rejected by The New Yorker before finally getting one published in the mid-1970s.
  • Her first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, was later adapted into a film of the same title starring John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt. Her novel is resoundingly considered the superior work.
  • Beattie was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.
  • Beattie is known for employing a dry wit in her portrayal of dissatisfied upper-class characters, earning her comparisons to John Updike.
  • Beattie became close friends with Elaine Scarry in college, was previously married to David Gates, and is now married to the painter, Lincoln Perry. 


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 505

Ann Beattie was born in Washington, D.C., on September 8, 1947, the only child of Charlotte Crosby Beattie and James A. Beattie. She attended the Lafayette Elementary School and graduated from high school in Washington, D.C., in 1965. Her father was a grants management specialist for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. If Beattie did not find her early schooling very stimulating, she seems to have been preparing in some fashion for writing even during her childhood. In an interview with Patrick H. Samway, Beattie explained:

I was an only child. . . . It is often true of only children that they become watchers because they belong to small families and are tightly bonded to those units. . . . I am continually squirreling away situations that I don’t consciously realize are registering.

It was in college that she began to take literature seriously. She took a course with Frank Turaj, who, she says, “taught me how to read.” She received a B.A. degree from the American University in 1969 and matriculated as a graduate student in English at the University of Connecticut. It was there that she started submitting stories for publication; she received her master’s degree in 1970. “A Rose for Judy Garland’s Casket” was her first story published, and in the same year, 1972, she withdrew from the doctoral program. Beattie later explained that she was miserable and that she simply decided to write instead of “reading criticism about writing all day.”

In 1973, she married David Gates, a fellow University of Connecticut graduate student and a musician and writer as well. Beattie published “Victor Blue,” in The Atlantic Monthly, that same year, and her first story to appear in The New Yorker, “A Platonic Relationship,” came out a year later.

Beattie has been a visiting writer as well as a lecturer at the University of Virginia. At Harvard University she held a Guggenheim Fellowship and was a Briggs Copeland lecturer. Doubleday brought out the short-story collection Distortions and Beattie’s first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, almost simultaneously in 1976. United Artists released Chilly Scenes of Winter as a film in 1979, calling it Head Over Heels. Falling in Place, a second novel, received an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters when it appeared in 1980, and Beattie was again invited to be a visiting writer at the University of Virginia. Not surprisingly, her alma mater, the American University, recognized her as one of its distinguished alumni.

A second short-story collection, Secrets and Surprises (1978), was followed by the collections Jacklighting (1981) and The Burning House (1982). In May of 1982, Beattie and Gates were divorced. Love Always, her third novel, was published in 1985, and a fifth short-story collection, Where You’ll Find Me, and Other Stories, was published in 1986. With her fourth novel, Picturing Will (1989), Beattie extended her literary domain dramatically; the novel was well received, gaining a front-page review in the book review section of The New York Times. Beattie has homes in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Key West, Florida, with her second husband, painter Lincoln Perry.

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