Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Ann Beattie's "Major Maybe" was originally published in the April 20, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

April 20, 2015Ann Beattie returns to the pages of The New Yorker, pages she inhabited frequently in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’ve never quite gotten on with her, and I’ve found it even harder to get on with her later work, but I’m always interested to see what she’s got going on.

Unfortunately, I feel nothing in particular with this piece, other than Beattie’s apparent longing for a time in which her writing was relevant. I’m gathering my thoughts and, since it’s short, am going to read it again. I am probably being too harsh, so I want to temper myself before I put too much here.

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By |2015-04-13T18:23:11-04:00April 13th, 2015|Categories: Ann Beattie, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |7 Comments


  1. Gina Oliveira April 14, 2015 at 2:15 am

    Well, I read it today and I lived in Manhattan in the eighties, still do.

    All the artists in downtown Manhattan had different things going on, the people in Chelsea at that time (not yet an ordained neighborghood) they were scary little cats and wanted to maintain a sense of home, the pictures, the flower, the neighbors, and so on, escaping from the Midwest as most were and not getting the gist of being in NYC. Of course they all eventually went back to comfy places like Maine or Seattle.

    The serious artists were totally involved, they got up late and worked all day and all night long in their studios, and then went out after midnight to Area, or Mudd Clubb, or Danceteria. There was no monthly check coming in from a parent to cover half rent, like Ms. Beattie’s character.

    Except for trust funders, and there were a few among them, also seriously pursuing an art. Some of them would give you their bank card to take a C-bill or so for a gram of cocaine. People weren’t that interested in their roommates or the look of their loft/apartment and certainly not their neighbors. Everyone in downtown 80’s world went about their focused artistic interest.

    It’s a sweet story but tells very little about a time in NYC that was truly a fabulous period in time in so many ways but Anne Beattie makes it sound depressing. It was the opposite of depressing. And yes, all those characters were around, no one paid them any particular attention. They were just part of the landscape. So her premise that she wasn’t emotional ever I don’t buy into. She practically psychoanalyzes every character that appears, under guise of no jugdment. Nice little story otherwise.

  2. Adrienne April 14, 2015 at 10:56 am

    This is the first piece I have read by Ann Beattie. I feel like I have come onto the short story scene rather late. Apparently she is quite well known!

    There were things I liked about “Major Maybe”: the meandering tangents of thought in the narrator’s storytelling, the last line echoing, the unique yet realistic characters, and the snapshot that this story is.

    But I am still missing something. And maybe someone here can help me see it. My response at the end of reading this was – And?

    Even after reading an interview with her in the Paris Review – “Certain things that I like about endings—endings that hint at the whole story, that let you know there is an arc, but that offer some related image or emotion, instead of decoding the initial image, or pattern, or symbol, endings that alter the tone and the mood just a bit. I realize that some people criticize me for being arbitrary with my endings. I think my stories are very determined. I can tell you the reverberation I have in mind for each element in the story. I can’t make you read it that way, but it’s been contrived, and then revised. What is there is intentional.” – I still am wondering. I am unsure how to respond.

    Maybe I need some more time to process it. I am not sure if there is enough here for me that I even want to though.

    What am I missing?

  3. T April 14, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Loved this. I’ve been a fan of Beattie’s for quite some time and for those familiar with her work this is sure to be a real treat. It’s reminiscent to some of her earlier stories from the 70s and 80s (“The Burning House,” “Gravity,” “Cinderella Waltz”), about listless 20-somethings. She’s writing about a generation of young people born during/after the sexual revolution who, unlike their parents, can really do and be anything they want as a result of rapid cultural and political change. But, as Margaret Atwood helpfully pointed out in her review of Beattie’s The Burning House in The New York Times, this freedom can lead to a kind of paralysis–too many options can leave one confused as to next steps. I think that’s why some readers often react to her stories with, “And?” It’s a totally legitimate response because Beattie’s characters, too, are struggling with that very feeling of ambivalence and confusion. That may sound like a cop out, but it’s not. These are stories less about plot and much more about mood. As a young person, I can totally relate.

  4. Trevor Berrett April 14, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    T., I think that the story is reminiscent of her earlier stories is part of my problem. It’s not that I wanted her to write something new or different or to venture to new territory here; it’s that to my ears the piece is a retread, and a rather sad one at that because it seems to be yearning for significance. I don’t think that’s just the characters emotions I’m picking up on.

  5. lotusgreen April 19, 2015 at 11:12 am

    The comments for this story are about as amusing as the story itself. And there was much amusing to be found in this story, though I’m finding that to pull out morsels for illumination is like pulling the walnuts out of a Waldorf salad or the cannellini out of a classic minestrone — without the whole environment they’re just nuts and beans.

    Still, the river of images, red-haired hysterics, purloined flowers, amusingly named mutts and wisteria charmed and carried the story along as seamlessly as any river flows. I enjoyed reading it as one might, off on an evening walk, enjoy an unfolding drama visible through a neighbor’s dining room picture window.

    However I am left with one question: if the floors have been painted black, how is one to know that the yellow pollen is indelible?

  6. Ken April 19, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    After last weeks story, I found this refreshing in its artfulness. I’m not familiar with her work so if it is a retread, I wouldn’t know that. I liked the string of images and the way one moment is a sort of center around which everything else coheres. I thought the ending was perfect, but yes Lotusgreen is right. I found Lotusgreen’s comments to be pretty close to my take.

  7. Sean H May 1, 2015 at 3:29 am

    Beattie’s minimalistic brand name dirty realism reached its apex with “Janus” and that’ll be her canonical contribution. She is an incredibly prolific short story writer (she is reputed to write a story a day!) and this one shows no lack of highly honed and self-conscious (without being self-effacing, self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing) prose. I liked the way the story veered out to Portland after being so grounded in NYC. Indelibility and an image, classic crafts(wo)manship at the end as well.

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