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'Walks with Men', Ann Beattie
This book, Walks with Men1 by Ann Beattie, seems so subtle in it's quality as to be shocking.  Either that or I was transfixed in some spellbound way by the writing.

The book starts out standard enough.  Jane, a smart, young Harvard grad relates the, paradoxically, casual lifestyle she leads mostly in New York City.  At first, she seems to have a superfluity of  intelligence and youth which she keeps in check.  Eventually, she seems to come to be not so much characterized by her abundance of personal gifts but rather by her sublimity of character.  Although
she doesn't have a strong sense of herself, she has a strong sense of individuality.   She isn't affected by her fortunes and she's indulgent of others.  Add to this also a personal courage and the result is a character of  impressiveness to the point where I was somewhat in awe of her.  Jane, as she goes about her business with subduedness, reveals a life in portrait that is more evocative and truer than any 1000 watt lantern could hope to reveal.  Part of the manner in which this illumination is achieved is through Ms. Beattie's writing style.

The style is, I believe, described as minimalism.  And it is truly breathtaking.  Though I'm no expert, it seems as if some of minimalism is not much more than a truncation.  Not so in this book.   Instead of a cutting out of affectiveness or excesses, the  minimalism of this book seems like small, fervent additions leading to surprising illuminations of life itself rather than simply aspects of life.  The uplifting or despairing of such components as love, desolation, loss, etc. are not really present so much as a life itself is present.  The drama of that life is not a high-drama developed with stylistic intensifications but, rather,
the somewhat more adventuresome than mundane events of Jane's life and her dialogues which speak for themselves.  At this point I can imagine neither a truer, more genuine use of minimalism nor a more evocative, powerful result of minimalism.  If you have any affinity for the minimalist style then I highly recommend this book.

Although Walks with Men is an introduction for me to Ms. Beattie, based on this book, she is the only author I can honestly say I would be tempted to ask for an autograph.  I think the book is that good.

1Walks with Men, Ann Beattie, ©2010, Scribner, A Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.



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