I’m up to about 58,000 words (200-210 pages) and closing the final gaps in my story before I begin another sizable revision. Below are some barely-coherent, semi-cohesive thoughts on Richard Yates and literary post-modernism.
Richard Yates produced seven novels in his lifetime, none before the age of 36 and none after turning 60. His goal, as expressed multiple times, was fifteen, a mark he couldn’t quite halve. With poor sales and erratic levels of critical praise directed toward him while alive, Yates held little profile outside his novels. He wasn’t a notable journalist. He didn’t post thinkpieces in a variety of publications. He didn’t write criticism like his contemporary John Updike. He wasn’t a late-night favorite like Norman Mailer. Nor was he often interviewed, and Yates views on life and literature were, until Blake Bailey’s comprehensive biography on him was released in 2003, contained almost entirely in a 1972 Q&A with Ploughshares. He died in 1992, from emphysema, alcoholism and god knows what else, at the age of 66. I’m therefore cursed in choosing Richard Yates as my favorite author. Or should I say, I’m cursed to have Richard Yates’ work happen to move me in ways unmatched by other writers.
Yates as a young man