Happy coincidences: Discovering Yates

I assume that by now most readers of this blog will have concluded that I am passionate about reading. I recently discovered an author I had never heard of.  The discovery came about as the result of several happy coincidences. But, I’m not sure where my story really begins. Perhaps it starts with a 2015 Subaru Impreza. .

Last year I gave up on my beloved Volvo because almost nothing worked properly any more. I gave it to a friend whose car only went backwards which made his plight seem worse than mine. I bought the used Subaru driven rarely by the same little old lady who drives all these cars. This one was a 2015 model that had a place where you could plug-in an iPod. A few weeks later, when rummaging through some drawers for no particular reason I found an old iPod. I had forgotten I had it, thought it would not work, and I had no idea what was on it – if anything.  

Luxuriating in my ‘new’ car, In between listening to audiobooks on CDs and some hockey games and classics on the radio, I decided to give the iPod a try.  It turned out that it not only worked but had on it many classical recordings and and some good jazz.  More importantly to this story of coincidences it also included recordings of a series of broadcasts from BBC 4  done in October 2012. 

One, called BBC Extra Debut, hosted by Nick Fraser, made a persuasive  case for rediscovering the work of  an American novelist, Richard Yates. It seems Yates was much admired by other writers and most critics, but his books never sold well. They disappeared from the bookshelves soon after he died in 1992.  His best book, Revolution Road, was re-published following the release of a movie version starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in 2008. This book was a finalist for the 1962 National Book Award, and his first short story collection, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, brought comparisons to James Joyce.  As well as the film, interest in Yates was revived by a glowing essay in the Boston Review and by a biography.

After listening to the BBC broadcast I searched for and found an audio version of the book in my library. I listened to it, enthralled. As advertised, it perfectly captured the mores, behaviours, and speech patterns of middle class Americans in the late 50s. The plot was clever, captivating, and well constructed.  

With the book fresh in my mind I returned to BBC recording on my old iPod. I realized that in my determination to discover Yates I had not finished listening to it. When I did I discovered that Yates and I may have been neighbours in Boston. In the early 1960s he lived on Beacon Street in Boston. My wife and I, with our first child Tamara, lived around the corner.  

I urge you to read something by this gifted author. I cannot imagine that you would regret doing so. 

PS… Do you recall an earlier blog about getting rid of books? One that was in the discard pile that I held back on was Steinbeck’s The Pearl. I don’t recall having read it before. I opened it last night and discovered that  It belonged to our local high school had been owned or loaned by students going back to 1964 including one who was, temporarily, my physician. Small, strange world, eh?

This entry was posted in Books, MUSINGS, Uncategorized, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Happy coincidences: Discovering Yates

  1. Derek J Phipps says:

    I always enjoy reading these, Dr. Pless. Best wishes & stay well!

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