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After reading Revolutionary Road last summer I felt great interest in reading more of Richard Yates’ startling novels. However, as these things go, it has taken me almost a year to read The Easter Parade, my second of his books.

Just like Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade sucks you into the hyper-realistic world of a dysfunctional family at mid-century. Sisters Sarah and Emily Grimes grow up with their painfully desperate single mother, who has a drinking problem that escalates as her daughters grow up and away from her. While Sarah marries and starts a family, Emily goes to college and afterwards begins work at an advertising agency. She dates a succession of men and completely distances herself from both her mother and her sister Sarah, losing herself in her relationships, until she is forced to confront the disastrous mess they’ve all made of their lives.

Reading Yates is uncomfortable yet so utterly enthralling. His characters are us and they are our relatives, friends and neighbors so reading about their empty and wretched lives is alarming. Are we all doomed to live meaningless lives full of emotional coldness, unable to face our disappointments and accept that life is not always about big moments, that no one is perfect? Yes, these thoughts really did go through my head while reading this book! And that is part of the beauty of Yates – he really makes you confront the sadness and the hopeless moments we all face. Depressing and humbling, yes, but also invigorating because the truth of it is that everyone can find their own way to rise above the mundanity while acknowledging that our day to day life IS our real life – there’s no ‘someday’. And we also must find a way to connect with those around us in an authentic way.

So, this is my take on Yates! His books are hard to read and agonizing to ponder and, honestly, not full of much hope. But I take them as a manual on ‘how not to live my life’ while enjoying his straight forward writing style and the mid-century settings.

After reading The Easter Parade I did buy two more of his novels – Cold Spring Harbor and Young Hearts Crying – and I’m interested to see if my thoughts about his writing stay the same after reading them.

Have you read Richard Yates?

Also, I apologize for the theme changes. I am constantly looking for something that I can’t find in the themes available to me, but this one will stay for the time being.

Have a non-Richard-Yates-like weekend!

9 Comments

  1. God I love Yates, he is definitely one of my favourite authors. I completely agree that his novels are both desolate and enthralling.

    Lovely review! I think he also demonstrates that while we can seem okay and normal in out lives you never know what is happening behind closed doors. He is so good at depicting private life.

    I’ve read Revolutionary Road, A Good School and Easter Parade. I loved them all. I’ve got another of his on the go, but I’m finding it difficult to connect to. I’ve not read Cold Spring Harbor or Young Hearts Crying, but now I want to! I think I may just have to collect everything he has written.

    • He’s an interesting writer and, though I wouldn’t say he’s one of my favorites, I am fascinated by his writing. MUST read more!

      And yes, he is so good at exposing our private anxieties and craziness. Which is scary. And so true.

  2. Richard Yates is one of my favorite authors, too! I’ve read Revolutionary Road, A Good School, The Easter Parade, Disturbing the Peace, Cold Spring Harbor, and several of his short stories. The Easter Parade is my favorite, and (sadly) his most autobiographical novel. Yates is famously quoted as saying, ” I am f***ing Emily Grimes!”

    While the writing is excellent, his books are depressing and it’s probably best to space them out a little.

    I very highly recommend A Tragic Honest: The Life and Work of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey. It is, without a doubt, the best literary biography I’ve ever read!

    Young Hearts Crying will be my next Yates novel. After reading your post, I want to find time for it this summer…

    • Okay, knowing The Easter Parade is autobiographical is even more depressing. Now, I AM curious to read more about Yates himself. I’ll have to track down the Bailey book.
      As much as I’d like to pitch forward into another of his novels, you are right about spacing them out. I’ll probably wait until fall to read another one.

  3. Ha, I win! I read Revolutionary Road in 2010, really liked it, and haven’t read another thing by Yates since. I think it’s because I know how dire things get for his characters, and I’m nervous to subject myself to it. But I will read more. I want to. It’ll happen.

    • You do win, Jenny! How can you have waited 4 years to enter the Yates spiral? They’re a sophisticated train wreck and I cannot look away! I admire your fortitude.:-)

  4. I’ve only read Revolutionary Road – my expectations were so rocked by his narrative, and I think that I too am a little timid about reading more of him. But this one sounds like it would – thematically – be greatly appealing to me when I work up the courage!

    • He’s definitely not for the faint of heart or people who get easily depressed, but I do believe his books are worth reading, despite their discouraging subjects. They make you think and that is always a good thing for me.

  5. This sounds quite hard-hitting depending on where and when you read it! Reading your post alongside what lakesidemusing has said I suppose that’s what makes it all the more… depressing. His closeness to the subject would make it ever more real.

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