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Eleven Kinds of Loneliness

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Yates and Sam Lawrence didn’t hurry another book into print. Buoyed by his new celebrity, and drinking now that he was alone, he accepted John Frankenheimer’s offer to write a screenplay of William Styron’s Lie Down in Darknessand moved to Hollywood, following unwisely in the footsteps of his idol Fitzgerald. After completing the script (it was never shot), in 1963 he made an even stranger leap, signing on with the Kennedy administration to write speeches for then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. After JFK’s assassination, Yates took a teaching job at the University of Iowa, finding time to co-author the script of the World War II movieThe Bridge at Remagen, released in 1969. If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lays their tragedy.” – Richard Yates, interview

Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness

One feels that his people never have a chance: odd things may happen to them, but they are never odd enough, never tragic and awful enough, to lead to a change of vision. . . . A sad, gray, deathly world–dreams without substance–aging without maturity: this is Yates’s world, and it is a disturbing one.The Easter Paradesignaled the resurgence of Richard Yates. A year after the career-ending Disturbing the Peace, critics hailed him as an American master. They spoke now of his body of work and raved over the effortless elegance of his prose and the depth of his tragic vision.

Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (album) - Wikipedia Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (album) - Wikipedia

A victim of his illness, Wilder is hopelessly lost and temperamentally incapable of doing anything to save himself, though he knows better. As Gene Lyons said in hisNew York Timesreview: “The author himself need not believe that his characters can alter their fate, but it helps if they do.” In 1975, six years after A Special Providence, Sam Lawrence, now with his own imprint at Delacorte, published Yates’s third novel, Disturbing the Peace. The wait, though shorter this time, was distinctly not worth it. John Wilder, the hero of the novel, suffers from some unspecified mental illness as well as from alcoholism and a needy, raging ego. The storyline is skimpy, as are the emotions inspired in the reader, probably because Yates focuses not on a close relationship between people trapped and dependent on one another, but on a man wholly alone, willfully beyond the bonds of love and family. My favourite of the eleven, "The Best of Everything", tells the story of two ill-matched young adults on the eve of their wedding, and if it doesn't stab you in the heart, I don't know what will. The amazing thing about it for me is that it isn't in the least bit sentimental, and all the language in the story is neutral, save for one word close to the end - "tragic" - the one word the author allowed himself with which to weigh in, or point a finger. What a powerful and poignant moment he creates there. What an everyman's story too. I wonder how many marriages have followed such a courtship. I shudder to think. The novel tells the story of Michael and Lucy Davenport from their courtship and marriage in the ’50s through their divorce and their separate lives in the ’70s. Along the way, Yates revisits familiar territory: Michael, who fought in World War II, is an aspiring poet who hates his corporate day job, and eventually the couple leaves the Village (where their dearest wish is to have artistic and interesting friends) and lands in dull suburbia, where the pressures of their unrealized ambitions and romantic yearnings drive them apart.I’ve tried and tried but I can’t stomach most of what’s being called ‘The Post-Realistic Fiction’ . . . I know it’s all very fashionable stuff and I know it provides an endless supply of witty little intellectual puzzles and puns and fun and games for graduate students to play with, but it’s emotionally empty. It isn’t felt. The themes in these stories, published in magazines before RR but collected in book form and released the year after (1962), are timeless: ordinary people dissatisfied with relationships, family or work, coping with illness, a tyrannical sergeant or teacher, romanticizing the past, fearing the future, trying to build something (to take an image from the final story), be it a novel or a meaningful life.

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