THE BURNING HOUSE by Ann Beattie
Kirkus Star

THE BURNING HOUSE

KIRKUS REVIEW

"I have had this revelation: that you can look at something, close your eyes and see it again and still know nothing--like staring at the sky to figure out the distance between stars." Here once more, then, in another collection of striking stories, are the befuddled people of Beattie's aging Frisbee generation; now in their thirties, adept at games, they know "how to talk about things" and see life vividly--but they're powerless to order, predict, or figure out the real distances between lives and events in their random colloidal dance. In "Learning to Fall," a woman heads for a marital break-up, drifts toward a lover, knowing what a prophesying friend has known all along: "what will happen cannot be stopped. Aim for grace." Other marriages end with the sudden breaking of glass--a favorite Beattie image. Relationships wind down, each cycle wobbling abrasively, closer to the bone. (In "Playback," the friendship of two women circles again through envy and jealousy--bringing death to a love, to an unborn child.) Beattie's apprehensive children "seem older now": in "The Cinderella Waltz," a resentful and unhappy eight-year-old awaits her glass slippers from Daddy, the slippery prince . . . as his ex-wife and male lover exchange confidences, chatting, "pretending to be adults." And, throughout, Beattie's people (upper-middle, educated, drug/Sixties graduates) are curiously bifurcated, painfully grounded but vividly aware of unreadable phenomena--as the women, perhaps more earthbound, begin to fall away from the lure of grand visionary possibilities. (Husband to wife in the title story: "You know what we all feel inside that you don't feel? That we're all going to the stars . . . I'm already gone.") Once again: brilliantly crafted stories about yesterday's children living without context, naked to pain, knowing that home fires can lead to a burning when you "play house.
Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1982
ISBN: 067976500X
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1982




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