Chapter 10: Late Twentieth Century and Postmodernism
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Source: The Modern Story - RY
A Brief Introduction by Belinda Webb who is the author of A Clockwork Apple. She lives in London.
The author of seven novels and two collections of short stories Richard Walden Yates was born on February 3 1926 in Yonkers, New York.
Richard, or Dickie, shone bright upon the publication of his first novel, Revolutionary Road, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 1961. It drew unbridled praise and branded Yates an important new writer. Kurt Vonnegut claimed that Revolutionary Road was the Great Gatsby of his time. William Sytron described it as "A deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic." Tennessee Williams went one further and said, "Here is more than fine writing; here is what, added to fine writing, makes a book come immediately, intensely, and brilliantly alive. If more is needed to make a masterpiece in modern American fiction, I am sure I don't know what it is."
Revolutionary Road was set in Connecticut in 1955. Yet despite capturing a fifties world of happy domesticated women, corporate innovation and possibility, Richard was intent on illuminating the human misery of this decade and highlighting what he saw as being the myth of the American Dream.
In 1962 Eleven Kinds of Loneliness was published, his first collection of short stories. It too had praise heaped upon it. Kurt Vonnegut said it was "The best short-story collection ever written by an American."
His writing skills were further utilised when, upon returning from LA, Richard began as a speechwriter for then Senator Robert F. Kennedy until the assassination of JFK brought it to an end. From there he moved onto Iowa where, as a creative writing teacher, he would influence and inspire writers such as Andre Dubus and Dewitt Henry.
His third novel, Disturbing the Peace was published in 1975. Perhaps his second most well-known novel, The Easter Parade, was published in 1976. The story follows the lives of the Grimes sisters and ends in typical Yatesian fashion, replicating the disappointed lives of Revolutionary Road.
However Richard began to find himself as a writer cut adrift in a sea fast turning towards postmodernism yet would stay true to realism. His heroes and influences remained the classics of F. Scott-Fitzgerald, Flaubert and short-story master, Chekov.
It was to his school and army days that Richard turned to for his next novel, A Good School (1978) which was quickly followed by his second collection of short stories, Liars in Love (1979).
Young Hearts Crying emerged in 1984 followed two years later with Cold Spring Harbour, which would prove to be his final completed novel.
Richard Yates died in the VA hospital in Birmingham, Alabama in November 1992.
Like the fate of his hero, Flaubert, whose novel Madame Bovary influenced Revolutionary Road and The Easter Parade, Richard Yates' works are enjoying a posthumous renaissance &endash; attracting newly devoted fans across the Atlantic and beyond.
The film of Revolutionary Road, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet, and directed by Sam Mendes, is due to appear in cinemas early in 2009.
Revolutionary Road. Boston: Little, Brown, 1961.
Eleven kinds of loneliness; short stories. Westport, Conn: Greenwood, 1972, 1962.
Bridge at Remegen, (screenplay) 1968.
A Special Providence. NY: Knopf, 1969.
Disturbing the peace: a novel. NY: Delacorte Press/S. Lawrence, 1975.
The Easter Parade, NY: Delacorte Press/S. Lawrence, 1976.
A good school: a novel. NY: Delacorte Press/S. Lawrence, 1978.
Liars in love: stories. NY: Delacorte Press/S. Lawrence, 1981.
Young hearts crying. NY: Delacorte Press/S. Lawrence, 1984.
Cold Spring Harbor. NY: Delacorte Press/S. Lawrence, 1986.
The collected stories of Richard Yates. NY: Henry Holt, 2001.
Bailey, Blake. A tragic honesty: the life and work of Richard Yates. NY: Picador, 2003.
Baker, Charles R. "Richard Yates 1926-1992." in Parini, Jay. ed. American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, Supplement XI: Toni Cade Bambara to Richard Yates. NY: Scribner's, 2002.
Castronovo, David. Richard Yates. NY: Twayne, 1996.
Klinkowitz, Jerome. The New American Novel of Manners: The Fiction of Richard Yates, Dan Wakefield, and Thomas McGuane. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1986.
Naparsteck, Martin. Richard Yates Up Close: The Writer and His Works. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.
Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 10: Richard Yates." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. URL: http://www.paulreuben.website/pal/chap10/yates.html (provide page date or date of your login).
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