Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Richard Yates: Yearning

I promise that my AWP report will be up tomorrow. (And it will be SO worth the wait...ha!) Until then, here’s this:

Steve recently finished reading Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates, which he very much liked, inspiring me to want to reread the book. I read it long ago, and I don’t think I appreciated it…maybe I was too young. We were discussing Yates—whose books of short stories Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, has an ironclad position on my “favorite books” shelf—and I couldn’t remember the exact wording of a Yates quote I had always liked.

So, later, I looked it up (yay, internet!) and in the process came across this fascinating (and sad) memoir by Martin Naparsteck, who knew Yates in the 1980s. Worth checking out for sure if you’re a Yates fan.

Enticing excerpt:
[Yates] liked to talk to me about particular stories that were favorites of his. He asked me if I had ever read "The Eighty-Yard Run" by Irwin Shaw. I said no. He outlined it for me. It's about a man and woman who meet in college and the man is more interested in the woman than she is in him, but when she sees him return a kickoff for an 80-yard touchdown during a scrimmage, she changes her mind, they date, end up getting married, and their marriage is unhappy. At one point she tries to explain modern art to him, but he says he likes pictures with horses in them. It's a poignant and pregnant scene. The story, Yates says, is about two good people who never should have married each other. I had asked him about "The Best of Everything," one of his stories, about a young couple who are about to get married, and the night before the wedding, the woman tries to seduce the man by, among other things, offering him wine, but he asks for beer instead. It's a poignant and pregnant scene. I had told him, it's a story about two good and decent people who just never should be married. And he had said, "Did you ever read `The Eighty-Yard Run'?"

(BTW, the quote I had in mind is from Young Hearts Crying: "We spent our whole lives yearning; isn't that the God damnedest thing?")


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.