Narrative 10

As we embark on our second decade of publishing Narrative, we have a few burning questions for Ann Beattie.

1. Who is your favorite character in fiction; your fave character in life?

The answer would depend on what my mood is like the day I’m asked this question. I might have the hubris to say Mrs. Ramsay, but not because she seems so real or true or because I identify with her. It’s because Virginia Woolf had her die in parentheses. You can’t beat that. As for a fave character in life? I’m sort of partial to Frosty the Snowman (who did come to life one day. And that second verse is such a killer).

2. Your favorite line (that you or someone else wrote)?

“Relief shimmied in to temper the quickening waves of guilt brought about by a lack of faith in her potatoes.” It’s a line from a story that someone submitted for admission to the MFA program at U.Va, where I used to teach. I can’t tell you how amazed I was when that turned up. For years, I’ve had it written on a Post-It note stuck to the window frame over my desk.

3. The story, novel, or poem you wish you could read again for the first time.

“Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” by James Wright.

4. Best part of the day?


5. Your cure for when the spirit flags?

Go to the gym. Go upstairs to my husband’s studio and get him to turn off the loud music and explain everything to me (I’ll settle for lunch and/or his undivided attention). Re-pot plants. Cook, using more herbs from the garden than necessary. Hope deer will walk out of the woods.

6. Ten words you use most on the page? In life?

I’d be too embarrassed to guess what words I write most often. Sadly, this information must exist somewhere and be easily accessible to everyone but me, since I’m so inept at finding things on the Internet. As for real life: unbelievable and pathological and really? Also ice cream, I have no idea, and the usual curses.

7. What’s your current obsession?

Finding an affordable convertible that has enough room for people to actually sit semicomfortably in the backseat and isn’t dorky.

8. What’s the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?

“Because you are good at a thing does not mean that you are obliged to do it.”

9. What did you know at age twelve that you wish you hadn’t forgotten; and/or what do you know now that you wish you knew then?

At twelve, that high heels were cool and that everything would change if you could wear them one day. Why did I stop thinking that way? That might be the solution to #5.

10. To quote Auden, “O tell me the truth about love.” We’re all ears.

Right back atcha: “Time will say nothing but I told you so”—Auden’s “If I Could Tell You.”