Richard Yates shone bright upon the publication of his first novel, Revolutionary Road, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 1961. It drew unbridled praise and branded Yates an important, new writer. Kurt Vonnegut claimed that Revolutionary Road was The Great Gatsby of his time. William Styron described it as "A deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic." Tennessee Williams went one further and said, "Here is more than fine writing; here is what, added to fine writing, makes a book come immediately, intensely, and brilliantly alive. If more is needed to make a masterpiece in modern American fiction, I am sure I don't know what it is."
In 1962 Eleven Kinds of Loneliness was published, his first collection of short stories. It too had praise heaped upon it. Kurt Vonnegut said it was "the best short-story collection ever written by an American."
Yates' writing skills were further utilized when, upon returning from Los Angeles, he began working as a speechwriter for then-Senator Robert F. Kennedy until the assassination of JFK. From there he moved onto Iowa where, as a creative writing teacher, he would influence and inspire writers such as Andre Dubus and Dewitt Henry.
His third novel, Disturbing the Peace, was published in 1975. Perhaps his second most well-known novel, The Easter Parade, was published in 1976. The story follows the lives of the Grimes sisters and ends in typical Yatesian fashion, replicating the disappointed lives of Revolutionary Road.
However, Yates began to find himself as a writer cut adrift in a sea fast turning towards postmodernism; yet, he would stay true to realism. His heroes and influences remained the classics of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flaubert and short-story master, Chekov.
It was to his school and army days that Richard turned to for his next novel, A Good School, which was quickly followed by his second collection of short stories, Liars in Love. Young Hearts Crying emerged in 1984 followed two years later with Cold Spring Harbour, which would prove to be his final completed novel.
Like the fate of his hero, Flaubert, whose novel Madame Bovary influenced Revolutionary Road and The Easter Parade, Richard Yates' works are enjoying a posthumous renaissance, attracting newly devoted fans across the Atlantic and beyond.
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