Tuesday, April 3, 2012

#78 -Read all of Richard Yates' novels

I first became attracted to Richard Yates' work when I saw the preview for the movie Revolutionary Road. I knew right away it was my kind of movie. Rooted in deep human feelings and emotions. Once I found out it was a book I ordered it and sped read it before the movie could hit theaters.

It was easy to do because right away I knew I was reading the most beautiful books I'd ever read. I remember reading it in the dimly lit room of my first apartment in East Lansing. Propped up on my comfy bed hiding under the covers from the cold winter. The book warmed me, it understood me, and I deeply understood it. The movie came out, I loved it, and immediately bought it when it came out on DVD.

I took my copy of Revolutionary Road with  me to Morocco for Peace Corps a little less than a year later. I took a few books that I had bought, but never got around to reading, and one I had already read. I knew I needed it with me. When we first got to Morocco we were told we would only be able to take one of our bags to our host family's house where we would be staying for training. All our other luggage would be kept in a central storage location where our group trainings would take place. We were told to pack accordingly. I didn't take any of my books to my training site because I thought I should devote all my free time to studying Moroccan Arabic.

However, soon I realized I needed little things that I knew would bring me comfort. On one of our trips to our group training site I balanced and shimmied my way through the maze of my fellow trainees luggage to the back of the room where my bag was. Only being able to bring 80 lbs of belongings along for a two year journey makes you carefully select each item. Being presented with a bag full of my priceless pieces I felt joy seeing the few things precious to me. I knew I was only looking for one thing, my copy of Revolutionary Road.

Its soft pages and familiar font gave me a sense of normalcy I was missing. It gave me a comfort that I never could have thought a paper object could. I never understood why people would want to read a book more than once. I wasn't reading it to learn more about the story but rather to feel the feelings I had felt the first time reading it all over again.

I read the book another time after that in Morocco. I kept a running tally of all the books I read when I decided I wanted to try for the goal of reading 100 books during my service. I counted the books I had read multiple times because to me the time and effort you put into reading a book, even if you are reading it a second time, is worth it.

I had decided I wanted to read all of Richard Yates' novels because I knew that his writing was some of the best I'd ever read. I had faith that every single one of his works, even though about different subjects, would carry the same beautiful words. What struck me as most beautiful about his work is his dialogue. How realistic it is and how I have never read anything like it before.

Someone in the comment section below one of Yates' books for sale on Amazon described him well. "Yates knew people; their speak and their demons and he was a master at presenting emotionally crippled lives in raw form ... whether they sink or swim."

He presents people as human beings and gets to the true depth of their emotions. I'm now on my third novel of his, well on my way of reading all the 10 in his bibliography. It's called The Easter Parade.
My Yates collect so far
I know I'll feel the same comfort while reading this novel as the others. Because I know I am reading the work of a man who understood the human condition and therefore indirectly understands me.