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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

An Ann Beattie story set in Manhattan

Ordinarily I would get annoyed w/ a story that introduces many, many characters, right from the start, and then keeps introducing more, making it extremely difficult, at least on first read through, to know who are the main characters, which are peripheral, and what relationships hold among the characters of significance. But Ann Beattie is creating this jumble of characters for a reason, in her story For the Best in the current NYer: I think what she's doing is putting us head-first into a social whirl among 70-somethings in posh NYC townhouses; our main character, Gerold, is invited to a party (at the Clavells, we never learn much about them nor do we need to) where he expects to run into his ex-wife, whom he hasn't seen in 30+ years (hard as that is to believe, given that they have as son from their marriage and that it appears they both live in Manhattan ... maybe I missed something?). In any event, over the course of this relatively long story we experience w/ Gerold (sp?) a # of encounters - some with the very wealthy set attending the party, one with his former accountant, now a frail but jovial 80-something, toward the end a rather rueful encounter with the doorman, Alonzo, in his apartment building, at which we get a glimpse as to how little the affable Gerold actually knows about this man w/ whom he exchanges pleasantries every day - and we see a young woman who lives in the building treat Alonzo very officiously. The re-encounter w/ ex-wife is almost lost in the shuffle, but we see that she seems to have a serious alcohol problem - and a sharp tongue - both of which may have led to the divorce and the long estrangement. The point of it all?: We get a portrait of late life among a set that, from the outside, appears confident and successful, but we get a few glimpses of the loneliness and fear of aging and dying that stalk them all, all of us in fact. BTW, has inveterate traveler AB shifted her locus from Maine to NYC, or is this a one-off?

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