My Life, Starring Dara Falcon Critical Essays

Ann Beattie

My Life, Starring Dara Falcon

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

MY LIFE, STARRING DARA FALCON opens in Dell, a small town in New Hampshire, with Jean Warner, a young woman who left school to marry her college sweetheart and has yet to find herself within his rather smothering extended family. Jean is on automatic pilot most of the time, running errands, speaking absentmindedly to those she meets, until, that is, she meets Dara Falcon, a woman of mystery who quotes Anton Chekhov, wears dramatic hats and jackets, drinks rum from a hip flask, and generally makes ordinary occurrences into events. Dara’s life is all high drama and it is no coincidence that she is an actress who picks up followers as easily as a spider does flies—an analogy Beattie makes overt in the novel. Dara is a liar and a user and almost everyone she knows eventually speaks of her as such, though all are drawn to her in an attempt to figure her out. Yet, during the course of her friendship with Dara, Jean learns more about herself and what she eventually wants out of life.

The title of the novel discloses the duality of the book. On the one hand, MY LIFE, STARRING DARA FALCON is about Jean’s search for identity, but it is also about how Dara serves as a catalyst toward Jean’s inward journey. Though the novel is often flawed by the blandness of the narration, as well as the familial sub-plots which Jean faithfully records without much interest, Beattie’s characterizations, particularly Dara, keep the novel vivid and engaging.

Sources for Further Study

Atlanta Journal Constitution. July 6, 1997, p. L9.

Booklist. XCIII, March, 1997, p. 1203.

Chicago Tribune. May 25, 1997, XIV, p. 7.

The Christian Science Monitor. June 9, 1997, p. 12.

Library Journal. CXXII, May 15, 1997, p. 98

National Review. XLIX, July 14, 1997, p. 54.

The New York Times Book Review. CII, May 11, 1997, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLIV, April 7, 1997, p. 71.

The Review of Contemporary Fiction. XVII, Summer, 1997, p. 267.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVII, June 22, 1997, p. 11.

The Yale Review. LXXXV, October, 1997, p. 156.