PATRICK STEPHENSON

Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

Master Yates

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[Cross-posted (eventually) on the eNotes Book Blog]

Last night in bed, I was reading a short story in Richard Yates’s Collected Stories, and ever so slowly, becoming more and more depressed. It seemed an empty depression, value- and enlightenment-devoid. Halfway through the Yates story, I literally threw the book to the ground—my floor is hardwood with a nice maybe Persian rug in the middle; underneath my rug lie gangs of dust clods/clouds I won’t ever remove—and went nearly immediately to sleep.

The stories in this collection revolve around a few, select themes. You’ll find the same ones more elegantly wrought in Yates’s most famous novel, Revolutionary Road. And although to me none resonate, and the idea that Yates is writing an accurate depiction of who we are and of reality pisses me off, I can’t stop reading him. His prose is too beautiful, and so precise. So, I’ve boiled down the Yates I’ve read, including Revolutionary Road, the Collected Stories, and the opening of The Easter Parade, into this handy list of Durdenian koans and catch phrases that detail…WHAT RICHARD YATES BELIEVED:

We are not who we think we are.
We do not resemble the movie stars and intellectuals we believe we do.
We are not as talented as we wish we were.
We are, in fact, quite pathetic, and unattractive. (See: our faces, our bodies, our feet.)

We will never measure up to our fathers, who were more manly than us.
But our fathers were pathetic and unattractive as well.
And our fathers worked hard all their lives for nothing.
We are doing the same thing.

We live in the suburbs and feel suffocated by them.
We live in the city and feel suffocated by it.
We wish to escape to Paris, but we’ll never make it.
Paris isn’t that great, and so our hopes of escaping to it are sad and pathetic.

We live in TB hospitals.
Our wives are sleeping with other men as we slowly die in the TB hospitals.
We’re meeting some interesting people in the TB hospitals, though.
But still, life pretty much sucks here in the TB hospitals.

We will never measure up to Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald.
We will never truly communicate with each other.
And when we die, those who love us will realize how much they loved us despite years of treating us poorly, but their mourning will be interrupted by a nosy if well meaning neighbor who bangs too loudly on the front doors of our homes for too long, and we will be lost to each other forever and ever, because there isn’t a God, a heaven, or even a hell. Our only hell is our lives, as we are characters in a Richard Yates novel/short story.

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Written by patiomensch

December 18, 2007 at 11:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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