Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen
After first hearing about Revolutionary Road, the movie, on the BBC and making a decision to see it, I thought I would share my personal reflections on my research into the novel's author Richard Yates, and my recommendations for the many readers who are discovering Yates for the first time. Many are becoming avid fans and are looking for more 'Revolutionary Road' style books - both novels and short stories.
The review I saw on the BBC mentioned Revolutionary Road in connection with the death of another American novelist(John Updike) in the same week. Critics such as Lionel Shriver commended the movie production team for reproductive authenticity both of atmoshpere and of faithfulness to text. Shriver in particular highlighted her preference for the perceptive writing of Yates over Updike. Richard Yates short sad stories are all 'bitter' and very little 'sweet!'
Revolutionary Road is a novel in which two members of a couple have different expectations of a life which could take them beyond the dull monotony of Conneticut suburbia. At first the couple seem to share a passionate dream and they plan a move to the more dynamic-seeming delights of Paris. Then, slowly, inexorably, inevitably ..reality creeps gradually in.... the husband is offered a job more locally and decides to take it.
Devotees of the lachrymose and pessimistic storylines of Richard Yates will not be surprised to hear that the story does not recover any cheerful optimism from here on in! A demoralised wife has crushed dreams of a liberating exotic future and an indifferent husband casts his eyes towards those with a more sunny disposition.
Those fans of the movie who wish to sample more of Richard Yates examples of husbandly ambivalence, wifely emotional hurt or generally unfulfilled dreams may enjoy some further reading of his works.
The Collected Stories of Richard Yates is a selection of tales about those from a seemingly turgid small-town mentality: coktail party one-upmanship bores,sneeringly supercilious wives and petty-minded hospital patients - all underwritten with a more profound undercurrents of the never-to-be and the often futile attempts of Yates himself at happiness.
Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness provides further glimpses of Yates own past - the humiliations of a childhood with an eccentric artist mother, the barely-disguised poverty of a pseudo-respectable environment, the misery of a loneliness made inevitable by his repeated cruelty towards and rejection of sympathetic relationships, and the alcoholism and mental health issues that often accompany those suffering isolation in a pit of despair from which they cannot raise themselves.
Tragic Honesty: The Life And Works Of Richard Yates (Bailey) is a biography which has received good reviews for its sensitive treatment of the facts and legacy of Yates life and for its attention to detail and mindfulness of the presence of so many autobiographical short stories.
All the above works are sure to appeal to those with an interest in the twentieth short story genre, American short stories,mental health isuues, the troubled lives and mental health issues of authors such as Scott Fitzgerald, Dylan Thomas and Hemingway - and to those movie connoisseurs/readers for whom twentieth-century vintage American style has a never-fading nostalgic allure.