Being a reader who works in a library is like being a dieter who works in a cupcake shop. (Or maybe it’s worse because I don’t have to pay, monetarily or waist size-wise, to check out books.) It takes willpower and a lot of “Thanks, but no thanks!” to avoid having piles of books in my apartment, all begging to be read. Books are a huge part of my environment, but unless I’m using or looking for a specific one to help me do my job, I try to make them just the background I’m working around. There are so many that I couldn’t really pay attention to all of them anyway (or I could, but I would lose what little sanity I have.)
I don’t always succeed. I’ve worked at Squirrel Hill for almost six months now and as I walked back and forth through the aisles, I kept noticing a bright red book at the end of one of the shelves. It was The New Yorker: Stories by Ann Beattie. Her name sounded vaguely familiar, but since I usually have a pile of books I’m just about to start reading once I finish reading the three books I’m already reading, I kept leaving it on the shelf. I don’t know how many times I walked past it and thought, “I love short stories! You have too many books at home! Keep moving!”, but last week, I finally caved and checked it out.
The book is a collection of forty-eight stories published in The New Yorker, starting in 1974 and ending in 2006. I haven’t finished reading them all yet, but I’ve read enough to recommend it. Beattie was considered a voice of her generation, and even though I wasn’t born when her first story was published, her stories have resonated with me. I’d describe Beattie’s style as spartan, but not in a bad way, and if you appreciate minimalism in your fiction, Beattie may be an author to look into.
I’m pleased that I was too weak to keep passing by this book.