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david milofsky

Of course no writer ever claims to be the "voice" of a generation; this is precisely why we have critics. But having read Beattie's new one, I can agree with you about her shortcomings. But Rifkind (though I haven't read the whole review) is partially right: her characters did mimic a generation and it was just because of their blandness, lack of affect, etc. Now that this is no longer as appropriate for our time, Beattie's work is not as topical as it once was, and hence not as successful. Other writers (like Fitzgerald, though a greater writer) have similarly seemed right for an age and then faded as times changed.

Dan Green

But the very fact that Fitzgerald is now considered a "great writer" suggests that the topical approach to literature is mistaken, doesn't it? Wasn't his work just as great even while times were changing?

david milofsky

I agree that it's mistaken; I was only trying to explain the phenomenon. Writers who are both topical and great (Dickens, Fitzgerald) rise above the merely topical while being, as you say, great even after their time has passed.


Oh, yes, right. Rifkind's comments remind me of the hoopla about Generation X, that group of terrific young writers who were going to lead literature into the 21st Century, titanic names like...um...ah...ahem.

Jimmy Beck

"I don't object to the plotlessness of her stories, or even the repetitivenes of her themes and situations."

You're a better man than me. What infuriates me is her laziness. She's prolific, sure, but how many stories about yuppies at dinner parties kvetching about [insert hot-button political issue here] can one read? It's as though she just picks up the newspaper to flesh out her "plots". I'm reminded of that James Joyce story about the lads sitting around the fire discussing the Irish Prime Minister (Parnell?). I'm sure it was au courant at the time, but it means fuck-all to me now, just like Beattie's stories about Al Gore. The only difference is even when she's au courant I can't stomach Beattie.


I don't disagree with you, Jimmy, but in a sense you had to be there to appreciate the pitch-perfect ability Beattie had in the 60s and 70s to bring a scene alive. Among other things, as a young writer, it convinced me that we had lives worth writing about. The shock of recognition and all. That's not an insignificant talent but not a major one either. The new collection, however, just lies there and does even less than you indicate.

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