No Success Like Failure
From the wreckage of his life, Richard Yates salvaged a few good books
Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness
by Richard Yates
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Posthumous literary reputations are tricky affairs, as is the appellation “a writer’s writer.” It might be said that both serve a compensatory function, making up for a less than obliging reality by suggesting an artistic worthiness that doesn’t translate into popular appeal. Such is the case of Richard Yates, once neglected and now celebrated, who died from emphysema at the age of sixty-six on November 7, 1992, after years of smoking four packs a day, alcoholism, and general bipolar calamitousness (including one early suicide attempt and intermittent breakdowns).
Yates enjoyed brief visibility and acclaim with the publication in 1961 of his first—and indubitably best—novel, Revolutionary Road, which was praised by William Styron, Alfred Kazin, and Dorothy Parker and nominated for the National Book Award. (It lost
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