The Tragic Irony of the 1950s

Richard Yates has one of his primary characters in Revolutionary Road offer this fantasy view of life:

… I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere, as far ahead of me as the seniors at Rye when I was in sixth grade; people who knew everything instinctively, who made their lives work out the way they wanted without trying, who never had to make the best of a bad job because it never occurred to them to do anything less that perfectly the first time. Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I’d suddenly know that I belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I’d been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in the meantime had been a mistake; and they’d know it too. I’d be like the ugly duckling among the swans. — April Wheeler

Revolutionary Road

April’s husband, Frank, also lives a life of fictions and when confronted by the truth offered by the bi-polar son of the local real-estate agent, April and Frank rapidly decline into a frightening suburban tragedy as harrowing as the best the ancient Greeks could imagine. I like to think that Frank came close to putting out his own eyes on Revolutionary Road in Connecticut.

Kurt Vonnegut calls Revolutionary Road: “The Great Gatsby of my time. One of the best books written by a member of my generation.” Although mine is the generation following Vonnegut, I certainly agree.

Richard Yates is a forgotten author that is periodically reintroduced to the reading world, general by newer authors who both admire and learn from Yates’ fiction. His writing is very realistic, straightforward, no literary tricks and fantasy events. Good, solid fiction that makes us think and not, as so may contemporary novels tend to be, just mindless entertainment.

There was even a recent movie made from Revolutionary Road with Leonardo diCaprio and Kate Winslet. It seemed to be a good adaptation and worth watching.

Other books by Yates are also excellent but not as well known:

  • Revolutionary Road (1961)
  • Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (1962) (stories)
  • A Special Providence (1969)
  • Disturbing the Peace (1975)
  • The Easter Parade (1976)
  • A Good School (1978)
  • Liars in Love (1981) (stories)
  • Young Hearts Crying (1984)
  • Cold Spring Harbor (1986)
  • The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (2001)

One thought on “The Tragic Irony of the 1950s

  1. Richard Yates is excellent. I find myself periodically recommending The Easter Parade and when I do it is with intense passion. If you haven’t had a chance, this is a definite must-read.


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