Richard Yates is one of those writers of which there are, sadly, all too many on this site. He has a small coterie of fans who push hard for his recognition but, with the possible exception of occasional articles promoting one or other of his works, he remains mired in oblivion. He deserves better.
Yates was born in Yonkers in 1926. His parents divorced when he was three and the family – his mother, his sister and Yates – moved around. After graduation, he joined the army in 1944 and saw action in France. He served in the army occupying Germany and also got TB. He returned to New York, where he got married but went back to Europe with the money he received from his army disability pension. Back in the USA, he wrote and taught to support himself, his wife (they divorced in 1959) and his daughters. His first and best novel – Revolutionary Road – was published in 1961. The book was a critical but not a commercial success but it did persuade Little, Brown to publish some of his stories.
At this point he changed careers somewhat, first writing a screenplay from William Styron‘s Lie Down in Darkness (never filmed) and then becoming a speechwriter for Robert Kennedy. After JFK’s assassination he took up teaching and co-wrote the script for Bridge at Remagen. His second novel was a long time in coming and, in the meantime, Yates suffered ill-health, not helped by his smoking, drinking and his previous bout of TB. This book – A Special Providence – was not a success. His third novel was even less successful though The Easter Parade was a big improvement and he had a certain amount of success with his subsequent publications but this did not last long.
In the 1980s Revolutionary Road was republished and he published further works but his reputation never gathered steam and, gradually, all his works slipped out of print. He was working on a novel – Uncertain Times – based on his experiences as Bobby Kennedy’s speechwriter, when he died in 1992, as a result of complications from minor surgery. Some of his books have been republished but his reputation did not increase, till a film version of Revolutionary Road was released in 2008, when there was a new interest in him.
Books about Richard Yates
Blake Bailey: A Tragic Honesty – the Life and Work of Richard Yates
David and Steven Goldleaf Casronovo: Richard Yates
1961 Revolutionary Road (novel)
1962 Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (stories)
1969 A Special Providence (novel)
1975 Disturbing the Peace (novel)
1976 The Easter Parade (novel)
1978 A Good School (novel)
1981 Liars in Love (stories)
1984 Young Hearts Crying (novel)
1986 Cold Spring Harbor (stories)
2001 Collected Stories of Richard Yates (stories)