Saturday, December 06, 2008

Revolutionary Road and Richard Yates

Richard Yates was Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s favorite American contemporary novelist. Vonnegut told me so in a booze-soaked party in Sag Harbor after I mentioned that I had a long conversation with Yates a few years before when he was academic advisor at Boston U. for my sister-in-law and somehow ended up with me and my mother-in-law in their Lincoln, MA basement talking about everything. Christopher Hitchens, with whom I shared many booze-soaked afternoons in the Iron Gate restaurant across from where I worked at the Middle East Institute, reviews the movie coming out this Christmas in The Atlantic Monthly.

My memories of Yates were of a guy who wanted to understand the people he was talking to and about while he chain-smoked. His big failing was not getting the academic postmark of a college degree or even time at school after his stint in WWII. But I read Cold Spring Harbor and found he was a natural observer of human nature in the raw circumstances of everyday life. Christopher H. remains a sort of Dirk Bogarde of the mind, endlessly facile and epigrammatic, but not very substantial, as his review of the book [and it is evident that he probably hasn't seen the movie] skips along the surface---which given the subject of suburban life, is probably appropriate.


dewitt henry said...

The script to Rev. Road was just posted and is worth reading: my reading the bite and compassion of authentic Yates survives.

Charles J. Shields said...


How well did you know Vonnegut in Sag Harbor? I'm writing his biography, due out next year.

Charles Shields