Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Discovering new worlds - Richard Yates & Richard Dawkins

Richard Yates was one of those gaps in my knowledge that had become a little embarrassing (Carson McCullers is another - though at least I know I'm not alone after reading this post by Ann over on Table Talk the other day!). I vaguely knew of Yates as a writer's writer, one of those talents that had fallen out of fashion (at least in Britain and Ireland - I'd love to hear how popular/unpopular he is elsewhere). My book-loving friend Vincent raved about him. I heard rumblings that Sam Mendes was working on a film of Revolutionary Road. Then I read this article in the Observer and finally on a day trip to Ely and a visit to the marvellous Topping and Company I came across such a comprehensive selection that I had no choice but to begin at the beginning and buy Revolutionary Road.

It turns out that's the best £7.99 I've spent in a long while. I'm not going to put pen to paper (or rather finger to keyboard!) and write up my full thoughts until I've let this book percolate for a while. But what I can say is that it dazzled me, leaving most of what I've read recently in the shade. To anyone who says Then We Came to the End nails the office working experience (like this recent post on the Guardian books blog) I can now say “but have you read Revolutionary Road?” as it captured so perfectly the realities of the daily office grind.

A bit of digging showed me that Vintage are in the process of reissuing Yates as Vintage Yates. Initially dropping the first name seemed gimmicky, but the more I think about it the more I think that this is one writer who more than deserves to be known by surname only, up there with the Updikes and Bellows and the rest. And I think the covers are just so beautiful, so evocative. Check out Easter Parade:



Or Cold Spring Harbour:



Or Eleven Kinds of Loneliness:

Just gorgeous. Now that I’ve realised what a gem of a writer he is, I’m delighted that Yates has been given the full Vintage classics treatment. I can’t wait to get my hands on them. Expect Yates to pop up regularly on here from now on.

I’m also romping through Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion at the moment. I must be one of the few readers left in the UK who hasn’t read his spirited attack on all things supernatural. I’m an atheist who had a religious upbringing, and there are many people in my life still with strong faith as well as just plain loyalty to religious traditions, so I appreciate both the disadvantages and advantages of religion. So far, I’m finding it thought-provoking and interesting, even if the style is a little shouty (or “passionate”, as the cover blurb so helpfully describes it) at times.

10 comments:

joshua said...

hello,

could you please you tell me where you found those cover images? is there a vintage page for these books yet?

Logophile said...

Hi Joshua
I found those images on amazon.co.uk, as I bought Cold Spring Harbour and pre-ordered the other two. I'm not sure if there's an actual Vintage page yet, but here's a list of the books being reissued http://www.rbooks.co.uk/search_results.aspx?aname=Richard%20Yates

verbivore said...

I've also never read Yates and feel a bit silly about it :-) Will be looking forward to your thoughts and might just find myself a copy of Revolutionary Road for the heck of it!

Table Talk said...

Vintage are doing a really good job of bringing neglected writers back into the public sphere. I haven't read Yeats, although I do know the name. 'Revolutionary Road' has gone onto the list and I'll be really interested to read what your 'percolated' thoughts might be.

Eva said...

I haven't read McCullers yet either-I'm going to try her for the first time for the Novella Challenge. :) Those covers are just darling!!

Logophile said...

Verbivore, I'd really recommend Revolutionary Road!!
Table Talk, I agree about Vintage, especially when so much of the press about book publishing seems to be that less well-known authors can't survive...
Eva, luckily for me Penguin Classics is reissuing Carson McCullers, so I can ogle those covers too ;-)

Gentle Reader said...

Haven't read Yates yet either--looking forward to hearing what you have to say about Revolutionary Road!

zhiv said...

A copy of RR that I bought a couple of years ago just caught my eye a couple of days ago, and I brought it up to my bedside bookshelf partly because I felt the movie version gathering critical mass. Pleased to hear that it was such an enjoyable read. Can't wait to get into it.

Logophile said...

Gentle reader, I'm going to try to get my thoughts up soon!
Zhiv, thanks for stopping by, and for your other comments. I'm adding your blog to my blog roll because I know I'm going to enjoy reading it! Such great coincidence that we've been reading such similar books.

MrRed2020 said...

Has anyone else seen the trailers for the film adaptation of Revolutionary Road? The movie looks like it should be pretty cool. I've been a huge fan of director Sam Mendes for some time now, and it's good to see Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio share the screen again! The movie opens on Dec. 26, and you can find the trailers here:
http://www.revolutionaryroadmovie.com/