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REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

About Richard Yates
The acclaimed American novelist and short story writer Richard Yates is ranked with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever and Raymond Carver as among those whose work has illuminated the inner core of American life.

Yates was born in 1926 in Yonkers, New York and his parents divorced when he was three years old. He lived with his mother, a seminal figure in his life, bouncing from one apartment to the next, throughout his childhood. Like most men of his generation, he joined the Army in 1944 and shipped off to France where he saw combat and contracted pleurisy and pneumonia, commencing a lifetime of lung trouble. Upon his return to New York, he worked at trade publications and did freelance copywriting for the Remington Rand Corporation. After a year in a TB sanitorium on Staten Island, Yates and his first wife Sheila, went to Paris and the south of France, where they lived on his Army disability pension. There he began writing in earnest, selling some of the short stories that were later collected in Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.

It wasn't until 1961, at the relatively late age of 35, that he published his first novel, Revolutionary Road. Winning extraordinary acclaim, the book was nominated that year for a National Book Award along with such classics as Joseph Heller's Catch-22, but lost to Walker Percy's equally seminal The Moviegoer. The book's disappointing sales necessitated other employment, and he was hired, on William Styron's recommendation, to write speeches for Robert F. Kennedy, who was Attorney General during his brother's presidency. After John F. Kennedy's assassination, Yates became a respected teacher of writing at Columbia University, the New School for Social Research, Boston University, USC and the University of Iowa's renowned Writer's Workshop. He also dabbled in Hollywood, most notably writing the screenplay adaptation for William Styron's Lie Down In Darkness, and later attempting to wrangle back the rights to Revolutionary Road so he could adapt it himself.

He would go on to publish an additional 8 books, including the beloved novel The Easter Parade and two books of short stories that are considered classic models of the form.

Yates died at the age of 66 of emphysema. Despite considerable critical celebration, his work never garnered the universal acclaim and wide readership of which he dreamed. Struggling with his own internal conflicts, including two rocky marriages and a drinking habit that was a life-long struggle, Yates would die broke and still quite obscure for a writer so admired by his peers.

But other writers would not let his memory fade. Sam Lawrence and Kurt Vonnegut arranged a memorial service for Yates in New York, while Andre Dubus held another one in Cambridge. Since then, popular writers ranging from Richard Ford to Michael Chabon to Nick Hornby have talked in the most passionate terms about Yates' influence on American literature. In 2005, Time Magazine named Revolutionary Road one of the Top 100 Best English Language Books, with critic Richard Lacayo noting: "If Revolutionary Road doesn't make [Yates] immortal, immortality isn't worth having.”

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