Richard Yates (1926-1992) has achieved that particularly ironic success that haunts the history of the arts: the broad appreciation he deserved when he was alive being lavished upon him now that he's dead. In 2005 Time named his first novel, Revolutionary Road, one of the 100 best English language novels of the past 80 years, and the film version is at the megaplex. More important, a fine new volume comprising three of Yates's books, Revolutionary Road and another novel, The Easter Parade, along with his story collection, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, is being published by the estimable Everyman's Library, with a blunt and sad introduction by Yates's old student and friend Richard Price, flashing a quick light on Yates's troubled life. One takes comfort that success has finally arrived.
Yates is a precise and seemingly flawless craftsman presenting us with shockingly beautiful portraits of isolation and yearning. April, Frank Wheeler's young, pretty suburban wife in Revolutionary Road; Emily, the more sophisticated and ambitious of the Grimes sisters in The Easter Parade; and many characters in the stories share a tragic desire for some indefinable thing—a level of existence, a life of meaning—that is both better than what midcentury American life can offer them and grievously unattainable. In the end, Yates's tragic vision is uplifted, made gorgeous and almost holy, by the elegance and woven strength of his prose, and by something else too: his discernible love of his characters and his pain at their fates.