‘High School’ by Ann Beattie


High School by Ann Beattie, 1983

The magic trick:

Minimal physical description of the characters

Just when “In The White Night” had me liking Ann Beattie stories, I go and read “High School.” Far be it from me to call something a piece of crud, but I feel fairly confident in saying that this story is a real piece of crud.

I’m not sure what the theme is here. I’m quite sure I don’t care. These characters are 1980s Manhattan stereotypes. It’s a world that Wodehouse would savage. But this isn’t outrageous comedy. I think it’s supposed to be taken seriously. I just can’t do it, I’m sorry.

For the sake of our SSMT model, I will highlight that I appreciate her typically lean writing style. We get minimal physical descriptions of the characters, always appreciated. And that’s quite a trick on Beattie’s part.

The selection:

There is a formal dinner on Sunday night at Coop’s loft. One of his friends whom I’ve never met before is going on to another party afterward, so he’s come in a Halloween costume. He sits talking to a pretty woman with her hair in a bun dotted with real white violets. Streaks of white flame from the candles in the glass holders are magnified many times by the mirrored tabletop. The white light that shoots across the tabletop looks like machine-gun fire in a comic strip. A man who seems to have no occupation sits on my right.

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