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Issue 84 - Short and sweet

Whisky Magazine Issue 84
November 1999


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Short and sweet

Jefferson Chase looks at the shorter form of story telling.

Call me old-fashioned, but there's nothing like the placid pleasure of reading those exquisitely crafted short stories in The New Yorker. Regardless of what they're about they always put me at ease with the world.

62-year-old US writer Ann Beattie is one of the best at this particular genre. The typical Beattie story is set out in the country and involves relationships between spouses and old friends who, in the course of the narrative, reveal that they don't like each other all that much after all.

Case in point: Weekend from Beattie's 1978 collection Secrets and Surprises. The heroine Lenore lives with her children and a partner George, a former university professor denied tenure with a low regard for her own intelligence and a keen interest in a regular stream of mostly female, visiting ex-students.

None of these young woman have husbands; when they bring a man with them at all they bring a lover, and they seem happy not to be married. Lenore, too, is happy to be single — not out of conviction that marriage is wrong but because it would be wrong to be married to George if he thinks she is simple.

If you think it sounds like these two need to have an open chat, you're thinking right.

But if you think that's coming in the story, you're sadly mistaken.

He can weasle out of any corner. At best she can mildly fluster him, and later he will only blame it on the Scotch. Of course she might ask why he has all these women come to visit, why he devotes so little time to her ...

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