Ann Beattie: Distant Music (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 5)

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On Friday she always sat in the park, waiting for him to come. At one-thirty, he came to this park bench (if someone was already sitting there, he loitered around it), and then they would sit side by side, talking quietly, like Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in “Notorious.” Both believed in flying saucers and health food.

In Ann Beattie’s “Distant Music”, Sharon and Jack share a park bench, a dog and a relationship. Though the  story is told in third person, it’s mostly Sharon’s story. Knowing that the story was published in 1977, I couldn’t help imagining Sharon as a combination of Rhoda Morgenstern and Annie Hall.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the title “Distant Music” is a way of referring to background music. Unfortunately, the background music in the story are songs written by Jack after he’s left Sharon, the dog, his New York City home (and the bench) to pursue a successful songwriting career in California – which makes the background music not so much in the background, not so distant.

The story also reminded me of “Superstar”, the 1970’s song by The Carpenters (a highly underrated song, I might add). However, in the case of Jack, he never said he’d “be coming back this way again, baby”.

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“Distant Music” is included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker. I read it this week when I selected the King of Diamonds for Week 5 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In List can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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2 responses to “Ann Beattie: Distant Music (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 5)

  1. Great post, dale! I love the 70’s references and also am a big fan of the film Notorious and can picture Grant and Bergmann sitting on that bench in my mind’s eye right now. I hadn’t thought of the song Superstar in a long time either, and I agree it’s underrated. It’s a shame whenever I do hear a Carpeneters song on the radio it’s never that one. 😦

    • Prior to reading this story, I had just watched a few episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” that a local station was playing in memory of MTM so I had the 1970’s on my mind.

      It’s a well-written story that transcends the 70’s. But remembering the 70’s isn’t always a bad thing.

      And Superstar – it had that one bass piano note. Always amazed me how a song could get that much mileage out of one note. I think Sonic Youth did a cover of it in the early 90’s. It was good and it had the note, too.

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