June 26, 2003

New York Times reviews / previews Blake Bailey's biography of Richard Yates.

"The mere mention of Richard Yates's novel 'Revolutionary Road' is a reference that 'enacts a sort of cultural-literary handshake among its devotees,' says Richard Ford, a Yates admirer. Within this circle — and now, it is to be hoped, for the benefit of a new and much larger one — the arrival of Blake Bailey's great, perceptive, heartbreaking Yates biography is a landmark event. At this late date (Yates died in 1992), it is a terrifically moving one as well.

"'A Tragic Honesty,' marred only by its drab title, is wrenching not just for the sheer Sisyphean torment of Yates's experience but also for the miracle of his artistic tenacity in the face of unimaginable odds. During his legendarily messy lifetime, Yates racked up rejection letters and never once wrote a story deemed acceptable by The New Yorker, however hard he tried. Upon the publication of his short story collection 'Liars in Love,' he arrived to give a reading in Boston. Not one listener showed up.

"'He sat in the silent lecture hall while his two sponsors gazed at their watches,' Mr. Bailey reports. 'Finally Yates suggested they adjourn to a bar. He didn't seem particularly surprised.'"

Read the article, then Yates' books.


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