Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

    This is the mystery of Richard Yates: how did a writer so well-respected? even loved? by his peers,
    a writer capable of moving his readers so deeply, fall for all intents out of print, and so quickly?
    How is it possible that an author whose work defined the lostness of the Age of Anxiety as deftly as
    Fitzgeraldís did that of the Jazz Age, an author who influenced American literary icons like
    Raymond Carver and Andre Dubus, among others, an author so forthright and plainspoken in his
    prose and choice of characters, can now be found only by special order or in the dusty, floor-level
    end of the fiction section in secondhand stores? And how come no one knows this? How come no
    one does anything about it?
        -Stewart O'Nan, The Lost World of Richard Yates (Boston Review)

Well, as it turns out, O'Nan did do something about.  His essay, and similar proselytizing by Richard Russo, got Yates back into print and earned the recent release of his Collected Stories genuine big event status, with reviews and reappraisals in all the leading papers and journals.  For now at least, he's been rediscovered and restored to an exalted position.  But if you read The Easter Parade, it's easy to see why he faded away so fast; this isn't the kind of book that the intelligentsia would want people reading, nor would they care to continue to face its ugly truths themselves.

In one of the most depressing opening lines you'd ever want to read, Yates let's the reader know exactly what he's in for, and why :

    Neither of the Grimes sisters would have a happy life, and looking back it always seemed that the
    trouble began with their parents' divorce.

The promise of the 60s was that the abandonment of traditional morality, family structures, traditions, and beliefs would have a liberating effect and make all our lives better.  But Yates proceeds instead to show just how catastrophic these changes were.  The older Grimes sister, Sarah, marries a man who looks like Laurence Olivier, and despite an outwardly happy and comfortable life, ends up being battered as they teeter on the brink of financial ruin.

Younger sister Emily becomes little more than a slattern, scrumping in parks and waking with strangers, though she does have a couple of longer term relationships.

The troubles of both can be traced directly to the divorce of their parents.  When Emily finds out that her sister is being beaten by her husband, Sarah tells her :

    It's a marriage.  If you want to stay married you learn to put up with things.

Emily's prototypical affair is with Ted Banks :

    ...both felt an urge to drink too much when they were together, as if they didn't want to touch each
    other sober.

The one sister is so desperate to hold her marriage together that she'll endure anything.  The other is so afraid of being rejected that she has to have serial relationships and to erect a haze of booze between herself and her men.

The story is, in fact, soaked in alcohol.  And it becomes clear that people use drink to avoid their real selves, each other, and genuine interaction.  It turns out that the "freedom" they've theoretically gained has made them miserable, is even killing them.

Towards the end of the novel, after Sarah has apparently, though not officially, been killed by her husband, one of her sons tells Emily :

    'You know something? I've always admired you, Aunt Emmy.  My mother used to say "Emmy's a
    free spirit."  I didn't know what that meant when I was little, so I asked her once.  And she said
    "Emmy doesn't care what anybody thinks.  She's her own person and she goes her own way."

    The walls of Emily's throat closed up.  When she felt it was safe to speak she said 'Did she really
    say that?'

Of course she's proud, an older sister pronouncing that she'd realized the dream of their generation, to be free.  But we, the readers, are privy to the awful truth : she's utterly alone, her past wasted, her future hopeless, alcohol killing her as it killed her mother and father, and contributed to the death of her sister.  The hard won kudos of which she is so proud reads like a death sentence, not just for her, but for all who thought that this atomized life would make them happy.

The book is exactly as depressing as it sounds like it would be, though there is much dark humor in it.  The story is direct and economical, covering the two women's lives in just over two hundred pages.  Most of all, it is devastating, a brutally honest depiction of tragic choices and truly empty lives.  No wonder he went out of print, the folks who foisted this culture on us were just destroying the evidence, the way any guilt-ridden perps would..


Grade: (A)


See also:

Richard Yates (2 books reviewed)
General Literature
Richard Yates Links:

    -OBIT: Richard Yates, Novelist, 66, Dies; Chronicler of Disappointed Lives (ERIC PACE, November 9, 1992, NY Times)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Richard Yates
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Richard Yates (IMDB)
    -FAN SITE: Eleven Kinds of Loneliness: A website for Richard Yates
    -FAN SITE: Best of Everything: The Richard Yates Archive
    -WIKIPEDIA: Revolutionary Road
    -GOOGLE BOOK: The Easter Parade by Richard Yates
    -AUDIO SHORT STORY: Richard Yates reading Best of Everything
    -INTERVIEW: Moving the Story Along (Herbert Mitgang, 10/28/84, NY Times)
    -INTERVIEW: An Interview with Richard Yates (DeWitt Henry, Geoffrey Clark, Winter 1972, Ploughshares)
    -PROFILE: Drinking With Dick Yates (MARTIN NAPARSTECK, May-August 2001, The North American Review)
    -PROFILE: Out of the Wreckage: Richard Yates knew enough sorrow to fill a bookshelf. At the end of his life, when I knew him, he was still working on it. (J.R. Jones, November 14, 2003, The Chicago Reader)
    -PROFILE: Yates gets new mileage out of 'Revolutionary Road': Richard Yates' 1961 novel about life in America after World War II was critically acclaimed but never sold well until now. The author died in 1992 at age 66. (Bob Minzesheimer, 1/22/09, USA TODAY)
    -TRIBUTE: ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS (Dennis Loy Johnson, May 29, 2001, Moby Lives)
    -TRIBUTE: Rebirth of a dark genius: John Updike and Philip Roth we know - but the great forgotten novelist of 20th-century America is Richard Yates. His debut, Revolutionary Road, was a critical success in 1961, but over the decades his books were neglected and Yates sank into alcoholism and nervous collapse. Now, with his work being reissued and a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet imminent, is this true visionary finally about to join the giants of American fiction? (Nick Fraser, 2/17/08, The Observer)
    -GOOGLE BOOK: A Tragic Honesty: the Life and Work of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Blake Bailey - A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates (Joe Donahue, 2009-05-27, WAMC)
    -PROFILE: Golden Globes preview: Richard Yates at the BPL in 1978 (Carly Carioli, 1/10/09, the Phoenix)
    -INTERVIEW: Blake Bailey: Author of A Tragic Honesty converses with Robert Birnbaum (Robert Birnbaum, 1/10/05, Identity Theory)
    -ESSAY: Richard Yates' Real Masterpiece: What Kate Winslet doesn't tell you about Yates and women. (Blake Bailey, Jan. 5, 2009, Slate)
    -ESSAY: The Lost World of Richard Yates: How the great writer of the Age of Anxiety disappeared from print. (Stewart O’Nan, Boston Review)
    -BOOK LIST: 100 Best English-language novels since 1923 (Lev Grossman, TIME)
    -PROFILE: Meet Richard Yates (Elizabeth Cox, Pif)
    -ESSAY: America's great secret: Why did Richard Yates never make the literary big time?: Richard Yates was one of the 20th century's best writers, but he never made the literary big time. (Esther Walker, 8 January 2009, Independent)
    -ESSAY: A writer revived (Dan Wakefield, Pif)
    -PROFILE: Movie may renew interest in Richard Yates: Public could discover American author's books through seeing Winslet and DiCaprio in award-winning film Revolutionary Road (Stephen Amidon, 1/18/09, Times of London)
    -PROFILE: Revolutionary Road Finds Readers, If Not Viewers (Andrea Sachs, Feb. 20, 2009, TIME)
    -ESSAY: On Richard Yates,/a> (Kevin Rabalais, 1/17/09, The Australian)
-PROFILE: Richard Yates (Nicholas Basbanes)
    -ESSAY: Watching Seinfeld With Richard Yates: Postcard From New York City (Therese Eiben, 9.25.03, Poets & Writers)
    -ESSAY: No Success Like Failure: From the wreckage of his life, Richard Yates salvaged a few good books (Daphne Merkin, FEB/MARCH 2009, BookForum)
    -ARCHIVES: richard yates (Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (James Wood, The New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Richard Ford, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Benjamin Lytal, NY Sun)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Adelle Waldman, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Lee Siegel, Harper's)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (John Mullan, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Sarah McIntyre, RTE)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Edward Marriott , The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (First Tuesday Book Club, ABC)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Anthony Giardina, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Patrick, BlogCritics)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Vince Passaro, Oprah)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Elisha Maldonado, Spartan Daily)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Jessica Schneider, Monsters and Critics)
    -REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Jeris Swanhorst, Classic American Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of The Easter Parade by Richard Yates (Douglas Kennedy, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Easter Parade (Jessica Schneider, BlogCritics)
    -REVIEW: of Liars in Love by Richard Yates (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Liars in Love (Robin Tower, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates (Anatole Broyard, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Cold Spring Harbor by Richard Yates (lowry Pei, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Anthony Quinn, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Collected Stories (Michinko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Collected Stories (Maria Russo, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of Collected Stories (Jon Garelick, Providence Phoenix)
    -REVIEW: of Collected Stories (Ann Beattie, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Collected Stories (Scott Blackwood, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Collected Stories (Lisa Allardice, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Collected Stories (Michael Arditti, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of A TRAGIC HONESTY: The Life and Work of Richard Yates. By Blake Bailey (John Sutherland, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of A Tragic Honesty (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (William Boyd, Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (Eric Ormsby, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (John Freeman, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (James Wood, Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (John Leonard, Harper's)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (Richard Klin, January)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (Kathleen Andersen, Rain Taxi)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (Kerry Brown, Jacket)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (Christopher Tayler, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (David Flusfeder, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Tragic Honesty (Stephen Amidon, New Statesman)

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Richard Yates (IMDB)
    -INFO: Revolutionary Road (2008) (IMDB)
    -FILM REVIEW ARCHIVE: for Revolutionary Road (Metacritic)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (MANOHLA DARGIS, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Beth McCracken, Christianity Today)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Tim Black, spiked)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Linda Zalamea, Hollywood Jesus)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Anthony Quinn, Independent)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Jonathan Romney, Independent)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Nick Schager, Slant)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Derek Malcolm, Evening Standard)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Peter Rainer, CS Monitor)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Owen Gleiberman, EW)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Stephanie Zacharek, Salon)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Scott Foundas, Village Voice)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Ty Burr, Boston Globe)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Al Hoff, Pittsburgh City Paper)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Jane Shilling, Daily Mail)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Revolutionary Road (Charles McGrath, NY Times)

Book-related and General Links:
    -STORY : Doctor Jack-o'-Lantern (Richard Yates)
    -INTERVIEW :  An Interview with Richard Yates (DeWitt Henry, Geoffrey Clark , Winter 1972 , Ploughshares)
    -A Website for Richard Yates
    -TRIBUTE :  Richard Yates, In Memoriam (Don Lee, Winter 1992-93, Ploughshares)
    -PROFILE : The Last Gentleman : A friend and student remembers Richard Yates. (James Crumley, Boston Book Review)
    -ESSAY : Remembering Richard Yates : Deborah Shapiro on remembering Richard Yates (FEED)
    -ESSAY : The Lost World of Richard Yates :  How the great writer of the Age of Anxiety disappeared from print. (Stewart O'Nan, Boston Book Review)
    -ESSAY : The Classics : Michael Chabon on reading Richard Yates (LA Weekly)
    -ESSAY : ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS (Dennis Loy Johnson,  May 29, 2001, Moby Lives)
    -ESSAY : Meet Richard Yates (Elizabeth Cox, October 2000, Pif)
    -ESSAY : Remembering Dick Yates (Chet Farmer.)
    -ESSAY : The Revolutionary Works of Richard Yates (Amy Rea, New Century Reading)
    -LINKS : Yates, Richard (1926-1992) (Yahoo!)
    -ARCHIVES : "Richard Yates" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "Richard Yates" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW: of THE EASTER PARADE By Richard Yates (Anita Brookner, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW : of The Easter Parade (Hilma Wolitzer, Spring 1977, Ploughshares )
    -REVIEW : of The Easter Parade and The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Anthony Quinn, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates' by Richard Yates  (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates' by Richard Yates  (Ann Beattie , SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Collected Stories (Clay Reynolds, Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Gail Caldwell, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW : of Collected Stories of Richard Yates (BRUCE ALLEN, News Observer)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates. (Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (CLAY REYNOLDS, The Dallas Morning News)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Maria Russo, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (SCOTT BLACKWOOD , Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Quentin Rowan, Community Bookstore)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (John Freeman, City Pages)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (KEITH CHROSTOWSKI, The Kansas City Star)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Stephen Amidon, The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW : of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Robin Vidimos, Denver Post )
    -BOOK LIST : Fogotten Favorites : The Easter Parade (Ben Marcus, FEED)