Happy Birthday Richard Yates

From Writers Almanac:

It's the birthday of the novelist and short-story writer Richard Yates, born in Yonkers, New York (1926). He spent his life struggling to pay the bills with teaching jobs, trying to find time to write. When he died in 1992 few of his books were still in print. But a group of writers, including Richard Ford, Michael Chabon and Kurt Vonnegut, began to champion his work and they brought many of his novels back into print including Revolutionary Road (1961) and The Easter Parade (1976).

One of the most compelling biographies I've read recently is Blake Bailey's A Tragic Honesty about Richard Yates. You might actually plant flowers in the gin pail after reading this.


Anonymous said...


I couldn't agree more. Blake Bailey's "story" is a great one. Richard Yates's, meanwhile, is a very sad one.


Anonymous said...

Why did they wait until he was dead to champion his work?

Anonymous said...

This is where POD (the actual printing technology--not the vanity press aspect) will really come into play: to extend the lifetimes of books. Only a tiny fraction of books still under copyright protection remain in print. Even bestsellers can be very hard to find a few years after publication.

Hopefully POD will also save us from the wastefulness of our current distribution systems which end up pulp one third of all books printing.

Interesting notes on this topic: http://www.boingboing.net/2006/01/26/falling_out_of_print.html

Lisa Hunter said...

I heartily agree, Adrian. As much as I love used bookstores, I love Backinprint.com even more. I've found some amazing books that would otherwise have been unavailable.

Satya Pamarty said...

I am with anonymous II here. I think it's very sad that they waited till he died. But was it not Ogden Nash who said that "A dead poet is divine, but the one in the next room is a joke"?

This happens all the time I guess.

PS: I am from Rabbitania Miss Snarks. :-) and I love your blog. I read it regularly.

Anonymous said...

An essay on Yates in the NY Review of Books (I believe it was by Richard Ford) is made me pick up the Vintage Contemporary edition of "Revolutionary Road" last March. I feared it might be dated but it was one of the best books I read last year. I've re-read many passages in it over & over, just to see how Yates does it. This championing of neglected works & writers, IMHO, is one of the greatest services that writers can perform for their art. It's the opposite of being the consummate careerist & it's refreshing to see.

Bella Stander said...

In response to anonymous & Satya...

Dig You Later
by E.Y. Harburg

Mozart died a pauper,
Heine lived in dread,
Foster died in Bellevue.
Homer begged for bread.
Genius pays off handsomely--
After you are dead.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the poem Bella!

And BTW, if anyone is interested, I've just started a new blog that is a sort of experimental, online writer's circle. Stop by if the spirit moves you...



lady t said...

Yates is a great read-Easter Parade is another one of his books that should be depressing yet you can't help but marvel at the very all-too-realness of his characters.

Also,Richard Yates is from my hometown of Yonkers so I gotta represent:)

Anonymous said...

Dear Your Snarkiness,

Congrats on topping the P&E Readers Poll not once but twice!


Anonymous said...

I've got a question for the rest of you Snarklings. I sent out a requested full to an agent yesterday, but forgot to write 'requested materials' on the envelope. Is it appropriate to email the agent to say that the ms is on its way, or is that being too bothersome?
Also, this agent says she has a turn around time of four months on a full. Is that unusually long?

Eva said...

I don't know the answer, but if I were you, I'd resend and write "requested material" this time around. Your manunscript might end up at the bottom of the slush pile otherwise!

Sciere said...

I've just started reading The Easter Parade this evening, and it never occured to me that there might be a biography.

Thank you for pointing out, I just ordered it.

On the other hand, regardless of his sheer brilliancy, I don't think he would be a client you'd like to represent, business-wise. Or is there etiquette you'd disregard for a writer that strongly appeals to you, yet isn't fashionable to sell or market?

Unknown said...

Dear Anon-with-Manuscript-in-the-Mail,

Is it a large agency or a small one? If its a big one, maybe you could telephone the agency, speak to a receptionist, tell him/her what you've done and ask for protocol? Argggh...I really don't know. All those scary words about never calling are now spinning around in my head...

Wonder if our Divine Miss Snark has any idea that the world is spinning slightly off kilter without her here to advise us?


The Gambino Crime Family said...

Yeah. Revolutionary Road was wonderful. The only thing that dated it a little was how the main character worked a 40-hour-week and had trouble filling that up.

Anonymous said...

Bailey's book is great, but it's long. If you don't have the time to wade through all those pages, check out the work that started the Yates Revolution:


Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, sorry for an "off-topic" question, but this is driving me nuts - what exactly does this character:


...mean? I've seen it on this blog a lot (latest example in Sciere's post above), but can't for the life of me guess what it's "code" for.

Anonymous said...

Never mind, I just realized it's a browser bug on the blogger post-a-comment page - any text in italics gets changed to */"

And there I was thinking it was some kind of mysterious emoticon with a deep hidden meaning :P