“Lavande” by Ann Beattie, in Granta

I just came across “Lavande,” a highly complex but subtle story by Ann Beattie, on Granta. The narrator is a wife and mother who has spent years watching her daughter’s self-destructive behavior. While in Rome with her husband, the narrator encounters the parents of a man to whom her daughter had briefly been engaged. She becomes fast friends with the mother of the boy, only to discover that this other woman is not who she claims to be. Beautiful story. Here’s the opening:

Some time ago, when my husband went to stay at the American Academy in Rome in order to do research, I accompanied him because I had never seen the Roman Forum. I had a book Harold had given me for my birthday that showed how the ruins looked in the present day, and each page also had its own transparent sheet with drawings that filled in what was missing, or completed the fragments that remained, so you could see what the scene had looked like in ancient times. It wasn’t so much that I cared about the Forum; in retrospect, I wonder whether Rome itself hadn’t seemed like a magical place where my eye could fill in layers of complexity—where I could walk the streets, daily performing my personal magic act.

Gorgeous Story by Jeanette Winterson in Granta

A writing friend asked for reading recommendations — short stories, in particular — and my mind instantly went to “All I Know About Gertrude Stein,” by Jeanette Winterson, which I read about a month ago and couldn’t put down. Winterson’s prose here is mesmerizing. Here’s an excerpt:

Louise was in a relationship; it felt like a ship, though her vessel was a small boat rowed by herself with a cabin for her lover. Her lover’s ship was much bigger and carried crew and passengers. There was always a party going on. Her lover was at the centre of a busy world. Louise was her own world; self-contained, solitary, intense. She did not know how to reconcile these opposites – if opposites they were – and to make things more complicated, it was Louise who wanted the two of them to live together. Her lover said no – they were good as they were – and the solitary Louise and the sociable lover could not be in the same boat.

And so Louise was travelling alone to Paris.

I am Louise.