Review – A Good School by Richard Yates.

48340It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book. As most of you may know, I’ve set myself a “challenge” of reading the Century Trilogy back to back. Well, I think that may have been a mistake. I am currently on the second book, and whilst I do really like it, I find myself only being able to read small chunks at a time. Now, this may have more to do with me starting substitute teaching and being exhausted every day, but I also believe there may be a psychological aspect due to the “challenge” aspect that I set myself. I decided to try and remedy this by reading something completely different.
To make my lunch breaks in the day a little more interesting, I took a short (about 250 pages) book to read. This book is by one of my favourite authors, so I knew I’d enjoy it. Richard Yates’ ‘A Good School’ is often described as the 70’s version of The Catcher in the Rye. I tend to disagree with this statement; Catcher in the Rye focuses on teenage rebellion in a society that is blatantly against the main character. A Good School focuses more on a society that is providing everything for the main characters, at least on a surface level.
The plot revolves around a group of adolescent school boys in a private prep school somewhere in Connecticut (most of Yates’ novels are set here and it is funny as I live here also, I can both what he is saying, and the complete opposite end of the spectrum!) that endeavors to churn out the best of the best in terms of future success stories. However, the plot spends an equal amount of time looking at the lives of the teaching faculty of the school – for they too are both entrenched and disenfranchised by the idea of this “good school”.
What I love about Yates is that he isn’t afraid of showing a broad emotional spectrum; pride, greed, vulnerability, anger, passion, and many other emotional states are portrayed in this short novel. With Yates, it may seem that he is all about doom and gloom, but really, he is about realism. These things happen every day, these emotions get felt every day, these consequences happen every day. There is no writing for the sake of shock value with Yates – everything is genuine and realistic.
Yates wrote this book in the 1970’s, but set it in the early 1940’s. This ability to set a story in a time in which it applies perfectly, and yet have it also apply to the time in which it is published, is ingenious. For a short novel, it really does pack quite the punch. If you find yourself wanting a short read, but also a read with substance, I really cannot recommend this enough.
~ Pegasus.
A Good School: A Novel

Review: Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates.

114475I’m not a fan of short stories. Not a fan at all. I generally think that they can always include more, and I’m never satisfied with the outcome. I held this opinion upon opening up the first pages of Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, but was soon proved that this collection would defy my firmly held stances on the genre of short stories.
This collection by Richard Yates (perhaps most famous for his debut novel Revolutionary Road) contains 11 stories that each deal with the theme of loneliness and the different ways in which it manifests. Yates is an author that really understands the intricacies of human nature. He has the ability to write a story in which the circumstances you may never have experienced in your life, but somehow, you completely understand where the character is coming from, and you can actually feel what they are feeling. In a lesser author’s hand, these stories could easily be turned into sentimental sob stories that possess a real “I’m a victim” type attitude. However, Yates understands that no one is perfect, and that human emotion is raw and gritty.
The only other author that I can think of that even comes to close to representing the complexities of human behaviour, is Jody Picoult. Imagine Picoult’s style of realism, but take away the occasional romance and sentimentality, and you have Yates. The controversial elements of Picoult’s stories are also present in the stories of Yates. However, Yates was writing in the 1960’s, not 2013 where we have the benefit of contemporary psychological analysis and the freedom to write what we want. This is why the reader can really connect with Yates’ stories; the true definition of a timeless author.
If you really like stories that reflect real life, stories that you can connect to, and you don’t mind being depressed for the next few hours, then give Yates a go. If you are looking for escapism and feel good stories, then Yates is most definitely for you! ~ Pegasus.

You can buy this collection here (along with his famous debut novel): Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (Everyman’s Library (Cloth))