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Old 1st May 2006, 16:42   #11
John Self
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

Well, this is a fine level of response to the first in our new series of Book Group reads! And for probably the most popular title in voting terms ever! In the words of Delia Smith: let's be 'aving you!
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Old 12th May 2006, 18:01   #12
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

Having read this before I can say that I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. From what I can remember about it I pretty much agree with Col's assessment here, I don't necessarily need to have happy endings but Yates doesn't leave you even a glimpse of hopefulness about the characters specifically or mankind in general. I tend to have kind of an optimistic (perhaps a bit naive) view of life though, so I suppose it's hard for me to reconcile that with the somewhat negative overtones in the book and the fact that there is no chance for a redemption of character for any of the main protagonists.

That being said, I remember this being a pretty easy read, and something that I had trouble setting down once I picked it up. So I did enjoy the book overall, despite the feelings I outlined above. I would probably give it about a rating, if I had to give it one.

EDIT: I just thought about the fact (after reading another of HoneyPotts posts) that I'm not a member of the book group thingy. I hope it was OK to post here.

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Old 1st Jun 2006, 20:07   #13
Lizzy Siddal
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

Two months late, I know, but at last I arrived on Revolutionary Road ....

and very pleased I am to have made the acquaintance of a kindred spirit. For unlike the optimists among you, I often share the Yatesian depair. You only have to look at the news to realise that there ain't much sapiens in the human species, and there certainly wasn't much savvy in the cast list of this novel.

It was truly an absorbing read and the scenes so realistic with warts-and-all honesty that they came off the page. At times, though, it felt unnecessarily sordid. I freely admit I was shocked by the extended debate concerning the survival of the Wheeler child and the grusome details of April's demise.

Even so, this novel will not be my first and last Yates. I will read more very, very soon.

BTW, how did the American audience of 1961 react to the novel?
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Old 1st Jun 2006, 20:14   #14
John Self
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

Welcome to the Yates fan club, Lizzy! Might I suggest Young Hearts Crying or Cold Spring Harbor as your next stop? (And, of course, all Eleven Kinds of Loneliness in the short story collection of the same name.)

According to Stewart O'Nan's superb piece on Yates in the Boston Review a few years back, contemporary reaction to Revolutionary Road was

Quote:
overwhelmingly positive–raves for Yates’s eye and ear. The few qualms reviewers had reveal more about the uniqueness of Yates’s work than the praise. Some wondered how an author could seem to be sympathetic to his characters at first and then sentence them to such torments, and whether this wasn’t unintentional or unfair, some sort of artistic flaw. Others questioned his use of weak characters to test larger philosophical and social issues, implying that the book’s criticism of the culture was dependent on how heroic Frank and April are (conveniently ignoring the fact that most Americans–and decidedly most of the book’s readers–are probably closer to Frank and April than to any typical fictional hero). But overall the reception was gushy. America had a new major writer.

It was also shortlisted for the National Book Award, alongside Catch-22 and Walker Percy's The Moviegoer. As to its sales, I have no idea, but given that Yates was out of print for some time in the US and UK until 2001, when the reissues began, presumably it didn't become a word-of-mouth classic...
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Old 1st Jun 2006, 20:43   #15
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

So glad you're impressed, Lizzy. And I hear what you're saying about Yates's and your shared view about homo not being frightfully sapiens and couldn't agree with you more. At the risk of repeating myself yet again - Yates doesn't offer hope or salvation for his cast, because they are the type of people for whom there could be no salvation - they're doomed by their own personalites. And like it or not, there are folk like that, I'm afraid. His remit was to tell the truth about characters like these, not present a sugared version of it to cheer everybody up ... which is another reason (apart from his fabulous way of expressing himself) that I love his work so much.

I've yet to read Young Hearts Crying, but I can certainly back John wholeheartedly on his endorsement of Cold Spring Harbour and the short story collection - that, in particular, is pure gold; oooh yes, and Jim and I also loved A Good School, too. So there you go - you've a few to choose from for your next choice.
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Old 28th Jun 2006, 21:36   #16
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

I know I am pretty late with this, but I'll stick my thoughts in here rather than the Yates thread, if only to make the book group look really popular!

I gave it 5 stars and red text in my Palimplist. I didn't even find it that dreary - I think the attitude I had when I read it was that this is what some people's lives are probably like. Like Col, I did like some of the characters, even the really unpleasant ones, and I enjoyed the fact that even the one hackneyed character (the madman who sees the truth) is a bit of a shit himself, rather than taking the easy way out and making him a sympathetic character.

I did also end up feeling desperately sorry for Frank and April, despite their obvious failings. I guess the book to me is a chronicle of the mistakes that people make in their lives, and the horrendous situations that they find themseves in as a result of those, potentially minor, mistakes.

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And all because, in a sentimentally lonely timelong ago, she had found it easy and agreeable to believe whatever this one particular boy felt like saying, and to repay him for that pleasure by telling easy, agreeable lies of her own, until each was saying what the other most wanted to hear - until he was saying "I love you" and she was saying "Really, I mean it; you're the most interesting person I have ever met."
Fabulous stuff. Later in this section, which is based on April's thoughts, she compares the way they lived their lives to "Steve Kovick worked at his drums - earnest and sloppy and full of pretension and all wrong" - which I think answers John's earlier point about who was assessing Kovick at the club.

So, this books shoots its way into my Top Ten of all time, along with the other Palimpinspired entries: Owen Meany, Gatsby and The Remains of the Day. Perhaps other Yates books, which I will surely read, will push it out again. But for now, I simply love Revolutionary Road.
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Old 28th Jun 2006, 22:07   #17
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

Wahay! Another convert! You're going to have a job keeping this up, Wavid, with Port Mungo and Revolutionary Road setting a high standard for the rest of your reading this year... What was the other book you were contemplating after Port Mungo, and which you decided against in favour of RR?
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Old 28th Jun 2006, 22:11   #18
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

It was finishing off Saturday, which for some reason I keep putting off, the latest excuse being Iain Banks' The Bridge.
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Old 28th Jun 2006, 22:53   #19
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

And Small Island, remember!
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Old 30th Jun 2006, 16:34   #20
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

Thanks to Wavid's excitement I finally got round to starting Revolutionary Road yesterday afternoon. I'm about the halfway mark and really wondering why I hadn't picked it up before (possibly preferring the brevity of Cold Spring Harbor). I find it a light little read and I'm amazed at how fast I seem to be going through the pages. Testament, most likely, to Yates' wonderful prose.
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