Ann Beattie Biography

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 Gates.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)
ph_0111207897-Beattie.jpg Ann Beattie Published by Salem Press, Inc.

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...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Beattie’s stories and novels demonstrate that she is, as she has said she hoped to be seen as, “astute about human behavior.” Her stories about people struggling to make their peace with the world and find contentedness have struck a strong chord with a generation of readers who came of age in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In her novel Picturing Will, she moved beyond her indirect portrayals of alienation to a depiction of a nurturing parent, a universal father.

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Born on September 8, 1947, Ann Beattie grew up with television, rock music, and all the other accouterments of the baby boomers. The child of a retired Health, Education, and Welfare Department administrator, Beattie took a B.A. in English at American University in 1969 and completed her M.A. at the University of Connecticut in 1970. She began, but did not complete, work on her Ph.D. In 1972 she was married to, and was later divorced from, David Gates, a writer for Newsweek and a singer. Together they had one son. Before her appointment at Harvard, Beattie taught at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After living in the Connecticut suburbs and in New York City, she returned to Charlottesville and the university...

(The entire section is 211 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The daughter of an administrator in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, James A. Beattie, and Charlotte Beattie (née Crosby), Ann Beattie was born in Washington, D.C., in 1947 and grew up in the city’s suburbs. As a child, she was encouraged to paint, read, and write. An avid scholar, she enrolled at American University in Washington, D.C., in 1966 and received her B.A. only three years later, in 1969. During this short tenure, she edited the university literary journal and was chosen by Mademoiselle magazine to be a guest editor in 1968. After her graduation, Beattie entered the M.A. program at the University of Connecticut as a graduate assistant to study eighteenth century literature. She received...

(The entire section is 290 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Born Charlotte Ann Beattie, the only child of a housewife and a government official, Ann Beattie has said that she developed an identity as an “adult-child” who, although dependable and mature, continued to surround herself with toys and called her writing a playtime activity. She has also suggested that as a teenager she suffered from an undiagnosed clinical depression. Her insightful depiction of too-mature children and of depressive personalities can be traced back to her own formative years. Beattie came into her own at American University, where she discovered literature, and went on to graduate work at the University of Connecticut. Finding the graduate program uninspiring, she turned to writing about her own peer group,...

(The entire section is 380 words.)