Sunday, November 3, 2013
It's never too late to read Yates
I'm a huge Richard Yates fan, with my favorite of his novels being Revolutionary Road and The Easter Parade (see previous blog posts). I read the behemoth Collected Stories of Richard Yates, which anthologizes all of his short stories, including the stories in Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, Liars in Love, and some previously unpublished stories as well. Yates' stories are so readable and engaging, yet heartbreaking too. Yates shows the reader his characters' ugliest vulnerabilities, most intimate sufferings, and scarring childhood events. It is his unflinching insight that draws the reader in, and his straightforward, clear writing that is so quintessentially Yates. These stories are not uplifting (his story "A Private Possession," ends with, "And when the sobs finally begin they are long, scalding ones, the kind that come again and again.") And yet, Yates sometimes catches the reader off guard with one or two unexpected hilariously funny lines, which tempers the tragedy with some comedy. In "Regards at Home," Yates writes, "That was an old failing: she never seemed to realize that if people could see her underpants they might not care what kind of hat she was wearing." In this same story, the protagonist dislikes his wife when she fills the role of, "dependable typist at Botany Mills, or the grudging potato peeler or the slow, tired woman who frowned over the ironing board to prove how poor we were."
Yates draws on many of his own experiences to create his stories, such as his time in WWII, bout with tuberculosis, and troubled marriages. These stories are not uplifting, but they are crystalline and illuminating and too good to miss.