Like much of Ann Beattie’s fiction, “Imagined Scenes” is more evocation of a situation than plotted tale. The seven sections of the story cover three days in the life of the female protagonist, who sits nights with an old man while his daughter and son-in-law take a midwinter vacation in Florida. The garrulous old man reminisces about the terrible winter he spent in Berlin and produces photograph albums and postcards, one of which, a silver-spangled picture of Rip Van Winkle walking through a moonlit forest, provides one of the story’s many ambiguous echoes. The old man’s chatter provides contrast with the scenes between the protagonist and her husband, David. Their marriage seems a wary one, dominated by silences, clichéd expressions of concern, and David’s ambiguous disappearances and his relationship with the new neighbors, the Duanes.
The opening section establishes the protagonist’s dependence on her husband, who seems to her energetic and supremely competent, able to anticipate her needs and alleviate her fears. However, their relationship seems very much like that which a brother and sister might have. There is no hint of passion or even deep caring on David’s part. Instead, there is a smugness about him, communicated in the first section by mention of his “surprise” decision the previous summer to quit work and return to graduate school and by his guessing that she has dreamed of Greece and then insisting, without asking her opinion, that they will go there. Though the protagonist would rather go to Spain, she silences her...
(The entire section is 639 words.)