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I non conformisti PDF, ePub eBook Non ha, in fondo, troppa importanza il fatto che Frank e April Wheeler, il marito e la moglie protagonisti di questo amaro e sconcertante romanzo, siano americani. Un certo stile americano di vita è diventato ormai universale, funziona come paradigma, nel bene e nel male, per tutte le esistenze piccolo borghesi che si conducono nel nostro tempo, al di là e al di qua dell'A Non ha, in fondo, troppa importanza il fatto che Frank e April Wheeler, il marito e la moglie protagonisti di questo amaro e sconcertante romanzo, siano americani. Un certo stile americano di vita è diventato ormai universale, funziona come paradigma, nel bene e nel male, per tutte le esistenze piccolo borghesi che si conducono nel nostro tempo, al di là e al di qua dell'Atlantico. Il marito e la moglie che hanno trascorso gli anni migliori della loro vita coltivando il mito, o l'illusione, della propria vita spirituale, il loro "complesso di superiorità", non sono soltanto personaggi americani; ora gli anni sono passati, i figli crescono, e improvvisamente i due sono costretti a rendersi conto che il loro atteggiamento protestatario di cui andavano tanto fieri altro non è stato se non un modo di integrarsi perfettamente, irrimediabilmente, in un sistema dove il nonconformismo astratto e velleitario è uno dei pilastri maggiori dell'ordine costituito e cioè, in definitiva, una manifestazione di conformismo. Un racconto ricco di ironia, di osservazioni illuminanti, il ritratto indimenticabile di personaggi contradditori e, a loro modo, ingenui e sprovveduti.

30 review for I non conformisti

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I let out a whoop of laughter on about page 180, when I finally figured Frank Wheeler out. You see, Frank spent most of his youth a scattered, bashful schmuck. Then after WWII, as a Columbia student and Village-dweller, he started getting laid all the time, thanks to a theatrically brooding pseudo-intellectual schtick. Nevermind that Frank is essentially a glib blowhard, talented in no artistic way (he's one of those tiresome people who whine about Conformity as if America invented it, threaten I let out a whoop of laughter on about page 180, when I finally figured Frank Wheeler out. You see, Frank spent most of his youth a scattered, bashful schmuck. Then after WWII, as a Columbia student and Village-dweller, he started getting laid all the time, thanks to a theatrically brooding pseudo-intellectual schtick. Nevermind that Frank is essentially a glib blowhard, talented in no artistic way (he's one of those tiresome people who whine about Conformity as if America invented it, threaten expatriation, etc.), but the sexual success of his hip, disaffected persona was the only success or strength he had ever really known, so it became the core around which he wrapped his entire being and identity. That's fine, we all need illusions, and if they get you laid, even better--but the hitch is that April, his wife and the last of his conquests, and the woman with whom he now lives in the suburbs, actually half-believes him, thinks that he's a noble soul who needs the rarefied air of foreign capitals in order to flower. This is hilarious because Frank is nothing if not the standard guy, L’homme moyen sensuel: his dissatisfaction with his life, which he pretentiously blames on the conformity and boredom of 1950s America, is actually pretty well mollified once he gets a promotion at work and starts screwing a secretary; the idea of moving to Paris the better to become a 'nicotine-stained, Jean-Paul Sartre kinda guy' vanishes once he starts having more sex; he affects a snooty disdain for his job, but he's actually quite good at it, and, in heartbreaking scene toward the end, when it's all too, too late, demonstrates that he kind of likes it. But getting back to my whoop of laughter. That laughter didn't diminish my esteem for the novel--regardless of his characters, Yates is a godlike stylist--but for a while there I felt it played more as a macabre farce than as a Tragic Laying Bare Of The Hollowness Of The American Dream. Then the tragic gravity of the characters came rushing back in chapter 7 of part 3, when the narration switches to April's point of view, and Yates starts hitting you where the last pages of 'The Great Gatsby' hit you. I ended up with more compassion for Frank, I saw that his pose of superiority rises, at least partly, out of a desperate fear of ending up like his wilted, used-up working stiff of a father. Frank and April were drifting, lonely people who initially thought that one another looked like the kind of person (the 'golden' boy, the 'really first rate girl') who could whirl their lives into effortlessness and perfection and a final salvation from lifelong feelings of dread and inadequacy...just as everyone else in the book thinks that the Wheelers LOOK LIKE that golden couple with the world at its feet, and all problems solved. Stendahl said 'beauty is the promise of happiness.' That's it, merely 'the promise.' Yates is so eloquent on how easy (and how dangerous) it is to theatricalize our lives. He knows all the little gestures and poses with which we briefly and delusionally elevate flawed creatures into romantic figures.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    Revolutionary Road - Set in 1955, portrait of American suffocating, grinding conformity. Author Richard Yates on his novel: "I think I meant it more as an indictment of American life in the 1950s. Because during the Fifties there was a general lust for conformity all over this country, by no means only in the suburbs—a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price." Republished as part of the 1980s Vintage Contemporaries series, Revolutionary Road is, for my money, the Gr Revolutionary Road - Set in 1955, portrait of American suffocating, grinding conformity. Author Richard Yates on his novel: "I think I meant it more as an indictment of American life in the 1950s. Because during the Fifties there was a general lust for conformity all over this country, by no means only in the suburbs—a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price." Republished as part of the 1980s Vintage Contemporaries series, Revolutionary Road is, for my money, the Great American 1950s Novel. Richard Yates at his finest, a true classic. In the spirit of freshness, I will shift the focus from the story of main characters Frank and April Wheeler to various ways the novel depicts 1950s American society and culture: THE ALMIGHTY AUTOMOBILE – “Once their cars seemed able to relax in an environment all their own, a long bright valley of colored plastic and plate glass and stainless steel.” Yates’ description here after those 1950s cars are off winding, bumpy, narrow streets and onto the spanking new wide highway. Back in 1955 there still existed a contrast between narrow dirt roads and car-friendly highways and freeways. Richard Yates foresaw how the automobile would quickly come to rule and how American men and women could then relax behind the wheel and feel at home on the many smooth, newly constructed car-dominated roads. WORRYWARTS – Frank spends all his work day anticipating April in her evening dramatic premier: “A mental projection of scenes to unfold tonight but nowhere in these plans did he foresee the weight and shock of reality.” Frank is a college graduate but hasn’t learned a fundamental, critical truth: constantly projecting your life into the future is a sure-fire formula for disappointment. And all during April’s actual performance Frank incessantly bites his nails and gnaws on his fist until it’s a raw, red pulp. Such anxiety and insecurity – Frank typifies the 1950s emotionally distraught worrywart. As Richard Yates notes above, a society of such worrywarts will cling to safety and security at any price. LOGORRHEA – “Could you please stop talking.” So asks April of Frank ridding home after her theatrical disaster. She doesn’t realize she is asking the impossible since this is America 1955 where silence has become the dreaded enemy; an entire society of know-it-alls drowning in their own chatter. Talk as a prime tool to establish how absolutely right you are. And if anyone else doesn’t see it your way or dares to disagree, God help them, they must be quickly set straight. Yak, yak, yak, jabber, jabber, jabber, fueled by those two prime 1950s pick-me-ups: chain smoking and martinis. BABBITT LIVES – Frank and April’s suburban realtor, a two-faced, despicable, intrusive gatekeeper of the growing suburbs, Mrs. Givings, runs around doing her best to make sure new residents equate personal value with real estate value. Frank’s inability to stand up to this loutish, boorish woman speaks volumes to his insecurity and pitiful lack of character. A WOMAN’S PLACE – Nowhere is Frank’s hypocrisy and ugly ego on display more than in his dealings with his wife, April. Frank condescendingly snickers at the middle-class mentality and lifestyle where “Daddy is always the great man and Mommy always listens to Daddy and sticks by his side” but Frank quickly boils over into a rage at those times when April doesn’t do exactly that, listen to him and sticks by his side. Turns out, April is quite capable of speaking her own mind, especially in matters of importance such as dealing with her pregnancy and the decision to have a child. This novel captures how the 1950s scream out for much needed women’s liberation. TELEVISION RULES – Frank and April’s choice to have a TV in their new suburban house: “Why not? Don’t we really owe it to the kids? Besides, it’s silly to go on being snobbish about television.” The author's penetrating insight into 1950s mentality: educated men and women want to scoff at television, thinking their tastes much too cultivated and refined to constantly stare passively at the boob tube, but that’s exactly what they do for hours and hours. “Owe it to the kids” – sheer balderdash. THE WORLD OF MEN AND GIRLS – Every single scene in Frank’s midtown Manhattan office is a revealer of the strict stratification in the grey flannel 50s - men doing the serious work on this side; girls performing secretarial and filing on that side. And it goes without saying every single person in the office is white. Frank’s father’s name was Earl, a serious handicap in a world of Jims, Teds, Toms, Mikes and Joes, since in workplace USA men are called by their shortened first names. Ah, to make such a big deal over names! Just goes to show how suffocating and strict the conformity. Sidebar: I always have found it amusing that as soon as the post-1950s business world discovered women will work harder than men, generally do a better job than men and work for a lot less pay then men, all of a sudden, surprise, surprise, huge shift in the American workforce. TRUE REBELLION AND PSYCHIATRY – Serious energy is infused into Yates’ story when April and especially Frank are given a dose of what it really means to rebel against standardized, conventional society: John Givings, fresh from a mental hospital, pays a number of visits to their home. In the black-and-white 1950s world, if someone had to be dragged off to a mental hospital aka nut house, loony bin, funny farm, that person was instantly labeled totally insane or completely crazy, placed on the same level as a leper in a leper colony. And God help the poor soul who is told they should see a psychiatrist. In the 1950s, telling people they need mental help was a key method of intimidation and control, as Frank well knows when he tells April she needs to see a shrink. THE LURE OF MONEY AND SUCCESS – Oh, Frank, how you spin 180 degrees when a company executive sits you down, gives you some honest-to-goodness appreciation and judges that you, Frank Wheeler, have what it takes to join him in a new business venture and use your ingenuity to move up in the company and make some serious money. With such a glowing prospect, following April’s plan of moving to Paris so you can sit around and “fine yourself” begins to smell like a big pile of dog you-know-what. THE KIDS – Frank and April have two children: six-year-old Jennifer and four-year-old Michael, running back and forth in the backyard, playing with the neighborhood boys and girls but most of the time sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons. And where will Jennifer and Michael be as teenagers in 1969? At Woodstock, wearing their hair long, smoking grass, listening to Joan Baez and Richie Havens and Santana. Bye, bye 1950s. Good riddance!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    For the longest time I just wanted a family, kids, a decent job, and a happy life in suburbia. That was all I wanted. That's it. It seemed so simple, predictable, and reliable. It was my ideal image. It seems that society has done a good job of putting that thought in everyone's head. The best thing for a young man is for him to go to college, get married, get a reliable job with a steady company, have babies (2 or 3, of course), make friends with neighbors, have birthday parties for the kids, d For the longest time I just wanted a family, kids, a decent job, and a happy life in suburbia. That was all I wanted. That's it. It seemed so simple, predictable, and reliable. It was my ideal image. It seems that society has done a good job of putting that thought in everyone's head. The best thing for a young man is for him to go to college, get married, get a reliable job with a steady company, have babies (2 or 3, of course), make friends with neighbors, have birthday parties for the kids, do little cocktail parties with the adults. Then he needs to tell his kids to do the same thing. And the cycle continues. That's "just what you do." I know that mindset isn't as prevalent now as it was when this was written in the 50s. And I haven't a doubt that the aforementioned lifestyle was/is the best life for many people. No doubt at all. I think the problem lies in rushing into that lifestyle, before really knowing what you're getting into, without really knowing your spouse, without even knowing who you are, and what you really want, and what would really be best for you. People get trapped and don't even know they're trapped; caught inside their anger, not even knowing what they're angry at. Trapped inside the jail that is their home, forced into a miserable life of their own choosing, not knowing why or how it got that way, and even more miserable about it for that very reason. And it's scary for me, because a few bad roles of the die and I could have ended up like Frank-fucking-Wheeler. And it's funny. That whole lifestyle. Especially the tedious details and what often becomes our self-obsessive thoughts. You know why it's funny? Because it's both ridiculous and real. So all the laughter this novel caused me was because shit, man: it's real. It's very real that most of us are this ridiculous; it's very real that we go through the motions each day unaware, petty, and self-absorbed; it's very real that the most "normal" among us are among the most insane. It's very real that a lot of people are living the ideal lifestyle and are fucking miserable. And no matter our life situation, we're always hoping for more. That keeps a lot of us going. And we're all pretty fucking shallow too, aren't we? Yes. People die all the time, and we get over it. Yes. We. Do. And often quickly, I might add. The word "timeless" probably gets thrown around too much. But this novel doesn't just seem timeless. And it doesn't just seem relevant today. It seems fucking instructive. Be careful what you wish for, and pay attention to who you are, and don't suck others dry, and don't suck yourself dry, and search for truth no matter how painful. And we continue to be self-absorbed and ridiculous. We make our decisions based on what we think will bring us the most happiness, like life is a game of chess. And it is. And it goes on. And I still want my reliable job and my white picket fence. And a pretty wife. And babies. 2 or 3 of them. But you see, I'm crazy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    Imagine my surprise when I came across Stephen King's "Best Books of 2009" List (one not condescending enough to include solely those published this year), & saw that 2nd place belonged to Revolutionary Road. Glad I am not alone in feeling a deep sad empathy for this book. The story is EXTREMELY well told. The story, about young "revolutionaries" who end up doing exactly the opposite of what they've set out to do, is quite simple but rich. It has different P.O.V.s, which deviates from the ou Imagine my surprise when I came across Stephen King's "Best Books of 2009" List (one not condescending enough to include solely those published this year), & saw that 2nd place belonged to Revolutionary Road. Glad I am not alone in feeling a deep sad empathy for this book. The story is EXTREMELY well told. The story, about young "revolutionaries" who end up doing exactly the opposite of what they've set out to do, is quite simple but rich. It has different P.O.V.s, which deviates from the outstanding film, & the ending is more shattering & bitter than the one presented on the silver screen. Academy-Award winning director Sam Mendes made a wise decision in giving April Wheeler a brighter limelight to contend with Frank's, the husband & sole protagonist of the novel. In the film, there is a constant wrestling match which is underlined by the fact that THESE ARE JACK AND ROSE from Titanic and we must instantly feel for them. Mendes is a genius, too, in the casting of his (ex)wife Kate Winslet, who is arguably the best actress of our generation. So while Mendes has the ability to play sly film director, almost-auteur, Richard Yates has much more to contend with. His meditation on the cost of real freedom is basically flawless. He plays with dialogue in the same awesome way that a dedicated playwright like Edward Albee did. He describes in simple ways just how awful the everyday can truly be for a bright, dedicated yet frail American in the 1950's. Makes a stark contrast with today's impediments on a marriage! After so many years it seems that sometimes people make jails for themselves with as little ease as they dream big dreams...

  5. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Really Tough Love Yates has a reputation as a chronicler of the smug years of post-WWII America. Perhaps. But as an artist, he is much more than a period sociologist. Yates’s understanding of the folie a deux which we call marriage is profound. The reasons two people find each other attractive are buried in experiences of which neither is conscious much less rationally able to think about. To call such attraction love is euphemistic. It may be, at best, an attempt to redeem or complete oneself th Really Tough Love Yates has a reputation as a chronicler of the smug years of post-WWII America. Perhaps. But as an artist, he is much more than a period sociologist. Yates’s understanding of the folie a deux which we call marriage is profound. The reasons two people find each other attractive are buried in experiences of which neither is conscious much less rationally able to think about. To call such attraction love is euphemistic. It may be, at best, an attempt to redeem or complete oneself that might eventually develop into love but only if the underlying reasons are resolved sufficiently and replaced. Subsequent decisions to bring children into such an indeterminate situation are likely based on equally fatuous thinking. It seems amazing therefore that the survival rates of marriage are as high as they are and that more of us are not functionally psychotic. Yates raises the perennial if not eternal question of the nature and implications of commitment. I recall the distinction made when I was in the services between making a contribution and making a commitment: in one’s breakfast of bacon and eggs, the chicken has made a contribution; the pig is decisively committed. Does this anecdote express the reality or essential ethics of commitment? Are the reasons for making commitments, misguided or not, relevant to a continuation of a commitment? Do changed circumstances, including improved awareness of motives, abrogate the demands of previous commitments? Can 'Til death us do part' be anything more than irrational optimism and encouragement? Personal sovereignty is analogous to national sovereignty. The implication would seem to be that treaties, contracts, agreements are never unconditional, never intended as eternal. There may be consequences of non-compliance with any of these, but acceptance of consequences is part of sovereignty - the share out of community property, loss of mutual friends, increased psychological and social tensions; and of course the fate of the next generation. The calculus of contract-termination may be complex but doesn't seem to imply any absolute moral constraints. On the other hand, can what we believe to be considered judgment be anything more than hapless struggle? The alternative to withdrawal of commitment is what seems to fascinate Yates. We try to ‘work things out.’ In order to deny, or at least delay, the possibility of broken commitment, we tell each other stories. Stories about the past and how we arrived at the present could prove therapeutic by uncovering unconscious reasons and reasoning. But we tell stories about the future instead, about alternatives lives - in exotic locations, doing interesting work, with stimulating friends and colleagues. The stories promote hope but little else. We hope these ‘ideals’ can compensate for any originating defects. But it’s likely that Yates is correct: these ideals simply reinforce the power of the neuroses already in play. A new script perhaps but the same denouement. There is no way to anticipate the psychological baggage we take on with our partner. The piper will be paid. Pain is inevitable. The issue is who pays and when. Unambiguously happy endings are not within the range of the possible.

  6. 5 out of 5

    karen

    watching this movie last night made me want to read the book immediately after. and it's not a terrible movie, it's just a little... hammy, and the tone is uneven - whether these people are meant to be seen as victims of the stultifying, euthanizing effects of suburbia, or if they are at root unlikable people who deserve to be taken down a peg for their arrogance and their conviction that their involvement in this thing we call "suburbia" is just playacting, not to be taken seriously. the book d watching this movie last night made me want to read the book immediately after. and it's not a terrible movie, it's just a little... hammy, and the tone is uneven - whether these people are meant to be seen as victims of the stultifying, euthanizing effects of suburbia, or if they are at root unlikable people who deserve to be taken down a peg for their arrogance and their conviction that their involvement in this thing we call "suburbia" is just playacting, not to be taken seriously. the book doesn't waver, not to me. i always read it as a story of awful people poisoning each other and blaming their wasted lives on each other instead of taking responsibility for their own shortcomings, which, being a generally unsympathetic person, i can applaud. and his writing - absolutely wonderful. the real character in this novel of course, is suburbia. soul-sucking, dream-gutting suburbia that neutralizes all its inhabitants and blandifies the pointy, interesting bits. this isn't the lynchian or music for torching view of the suburbs/small-town charm, where the beneficence of suburbia is compromised by its seedy undertones. suburbia, here, is the aggressor, slowly draining its characters of any charms and releasing them back into their after-dinner drinks and their morning commute to the office. and woe if you think you are somehow special or "above it all", particularly if, like the wheelers, your aspirations outweigh your capabilities and your "specialness" is only ego. i grew up in a version of suburbia, and while it wasn't in the same time period, and it wasn't as bad as all this, the writing struck a chord in me and it's good that i am away. suburbia is a bitch, but at least they'll always have paris... oh, wait. come to my blog!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zack

    What a wise book. Many rate it as depressing, and yes, it tells a very tragic story. But at the same time, it's also a tremendously funny book. It's just that its humor stings because it's based in the most human of weaknesses: Self-rationalization. Frank and April Wheeler are the prototypical post-WWII suburban couple -- happy on the outside, endlessly frustrated on the inside. But author Richard Yates isn't interested in just dissecting the suburbs. Frank and April are painfully aware of their What a wise book. Many rate it as depressing, and yes, it tells a very tragic story. But at the same time, it's also a tremendously funny book. It's just that its humor stings because it's based in the most human of weaknesses: Self-rationalization. Frank and April Wheeler are the prototypical post-WWII suburban couple -- happy on the outside, endlessly frustrated on the inside. But author Richard Yates isn't interested in just dissecting the suburbs. Frank and April are painfully aware of their shallow surroundings, but they've always tried to convince themselves that they're better than this life. Their frustration -- mainfested in arguments that are painfully realistic and bitter -- comes from a sense that they should be doing more, that they should accomplish something with themselves. But, as the failed local theater production that opens the story points out, they're also haunted by the fact that perhaps not only were they not meant to be great, but they were never on the road to greatness in the first place. Scene after scene crackles with familiarity. There's the conversation with another couple that leads to awkward silence until the neighbors' troubles provide a desperately-needed topic of discussion. There's the description of how Frank came to get his job, a dead-on commentary on college graduates looking for financial stablity with little output. And there's April's heartbreaking lament about the validation she hoped to find for herself in the real world, and what she's found instead. It's not that the Wheelers are unjustified in their decisions -- their backstories flesh out Frank's need not to be his blue-collar father, and April's desperate desire for a loving family. But their attitudes toward facing the world are hopelessly compromised by their insecurity. Neither is truly happy with themself, and April's harebrained idea about moving to Paris is just an excuse to avoid the real issue: It's not the suburbs that's draining the life from their marriage, it's them. In the end, April realizes they were never really in love with each other, just the idealized images they created for each other. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD has enjoyed a cult reputation for decades, but has often had a hard time gaining widespread acceptance. I think the reason for this is because it's filled with truth -- the kind that makes people nod in recognition and wince in embarassment. It achieves one of the highest goals of fiction: It makes you question yourself and the world you live in. It's not without hope -- even after the climactic tragedy, life goes on. It's just up to you to try and understand the book's lessons, and figure out if there's anything you've learned.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    [image error] On my fling-o-meter scale, Revolutionary Road is a well-traveled book, having been flung (why does this past participle sound so ungainly?) across the room several times. The initial trip occurred when Richard Yates gratuitously threw in this bit of over-writing in the first chapter: At first their rehearsals had been held on Saturdays—always it seemed, on the kind of windless February or March afternoon when the sky is white , the trees are black, and the brown fields and hummocks [image error] On my fling-o-meter scale, Revolutionary Road is a well-traveled book, having been flung (why does this past participle sound so ungainly?) across the room several times. The initial trip occurred when Richard Yates gratuitously threw in this bit of over-writing in the first chapter: At first their rehearsals had been held on Saturdays—always it seemed, on the kind of windless February or March afternoon when the sky is white , the trees are black, and the brown fields and hummocks of the earth lie naked and tender between curds of shriveled snow” (4) It was the “hummocks of the earth” lying “naked and tender” among the “curds of shriveled snow” that made me yell fuck, and send the book airborne. During these outbursts, my golden retriever always gets up and heads toward a corner in the room, nose to the wall, like one of those doomed characters in the Blair Witch Project. The book fails on many levels. Characterization - It takes some doing to make Franzen's characters in the Corrections look warm and fuzzy by comparison. In RR, the protagonist, Frank Wheeler, offers no redeeming qualities. Our inability to identify with Frank or give a rat's ass what happens to him prevents the book from achieving its touted status as an American tragedy. It's a tragedy all right, but one of bad writing and poorly-executed characters, rather than pathos. Frank Wheeler may be the most self-absorbed, premeditated character ever created. This man could not pick his nose without first deciding what angle might best favor the nose picking and if it could be done in an off-hand, manly sort of way. Throughout, these brittle, self-absorbed, snotty, angst-ridden (for no particular reason) characters drink and smoke copious amounts. Their aimless path, similar to the circular journey of characters in The Sun Also Rises or The Great Gatsby is about the only aspect Yates has in common with Hemingway and Fitzgerald, to whom he is equated, by David Hare, one of the gushing, drunken critics quoted on the book's back cover. However, I cared about Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Jake Barnes, and possibly even Brett Ashley. Yates' characters do not arouse my sympathy. Frank's obsessive fascination with his own psyche, April's confused and curiously unexplained actions, Shep's doglike devotion, and Milly's blankness work against what is, ostensibly, a character-driven novel. Theme - As far as I could tell the only "characteristically American theme"--a carefully vague phrase used by another critic quoted on the book's back cover--exemplified is something like when "manhood was in flower." Frank and April's planned relocation to Paris is proposed by April, who in a crescendo of wifely devotion and guilt, declares herself a selfish bitch who's never given Frank the time he's needed to find himself and bring his genius to fruition. Their intended escape from suburbia brings Frank and April closer, ramping up their love life and uniting them with a sense of superiority as they gleefully break the “news” to their less enlightened friends. The book’s lack of any sort of moral compass contributes to its failure. The manhood in flower theme is embarrassing, rather than noble. Consider the following, which the reader should somehow take seriously (!?). Here Frank picks through the women in his life, dissects their physical attributes, and declares them lacking—none of them worthy enough to lift him to manly triumph: But as college wore on he began to be haunted by numberless small depressions….It nagged him, in particular, that none of the girls he’d known so far had given him the sense of unalloyed triumph. One had been very pretty except for unpardonably thick ankles, and one had been intelligent, though possessed of an annoying attempt to mother him, but he had to admit that none had been first-rate. Nor was he ever in doubt of what he meant by a first-rate girl, though he’d never come close enough to one to touch her hand. There had been two or three of them in the various high schools he’d attended, disdainfully unaware of him in their concern with college boys from out of town; what few he’d seen in the army had most often been seen in flickering miniature, on strains of dance music, through the distant golden windows of an officers’ club…” (23, emphasis mine). But enough. The book took another trip across the room, and I felt like Dorothy Parker when she wrote, “at this point Tonstant Weader twowed up.” Like Shakespeare’s fools, who often penetrate the layers of deceit and spout words of wisdom, John Givings, the crazy son of Helen Givings, theoretically serves to offer up moments of Truth. Helen Givings and her husband have put their son in a mental health facility, and Helen thinks it would be “good” for their son, John, to talk to other young people. Thus, the ill-fated Sunday visits at the Wheeler’s home. But John’s truths are less than dependable. At one point, John channels Ayn Rand. After first mocking April, John is impressed by her frank response and provides this Randean pronouncement: [John:] stared at her for a long time, and nodded with approval. “I like your girl, Wheeler,” he announced at last. “I get the feeling she’s female. You know what the difference between female and feminine is? Huh? [No. But sadly we find out.:] Well, here’s a hint: a feminine woman never laughs out loud and always shave her armpits. Old Helen in there is feminine as hell. I’ve only met about a half dozen females in my life, and I think you got one of them here. Course, come to think of it, that figures. I get the feeling you’re male. There are aren’t too many males around, either” (201). I picked up the just-airborne book and finished this sucker, but there isn’t much more to write. The book is a muddled, mawkish, maudlin tribute to some time and place I’d like to think never existed. In sum, just picture a more existential martini-laden white collar version of the theme song to Archie Bunker: Boy, the way Glen Miller played. Songs that made the Hit Parade. Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days! Didn't need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days! And you knew where you were then! Girls were girls and men were men.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    I read this in anticipation of seeing the film. It is a grim tale. The primary characters are April and Frank. They both hold a rather lofty opinion of themselves, but fail to actually do anything with their gifts, real or imagined. They find themselves stuck in a classic suburban nightmare of disenchantment with their circumstances and resentment of each other. The affection they do feel for each other comes and goes, mostly goes, as they wallow in their narcissism. She imagines a wondrous life I read this in anticipation of seeing the film. It is a grim tale. The primary characters are April and Frank. They both hold a rather lofty opinion of themselves, but fail to actually do anything with their gifts, real or imagined. They find themselves stuck in a classic suburban nightmare of disenchantment with their circumstances and resentment of each other. The affection they do feel for each other comes and goes, mostly goes, as they wallow in their narcissism. She imagines a wondrous life for them in Paris. He comes to realize that maybe he is, really, ordinary, and not the extraordinary person he has convinced himself and many around him that he is. There are themes here about character being revealed in how we cope with stress, with self awareness. Ultimately April opts out, unable to cope. Frank attempts to adjust to his opportunities in the world when it becomes clear to him that his loftier, esoteric leanings were a form of self-delusion. All the characters here are pained. Perhaps the most overtly pained person is the institutionalized, violent son of a real estate agent. His role here is as truth teller. This book was written in the early 60’s about the 50’s. It has surprising relevance today, particularly if one sees it as a character study. The mores of those times have hopefully passed. Abortion, while still frowned upon, is not illegal or as deadly as it was then. The characters here are also skewed a bit, with more detail being given to Frank, for example, than to April. We see inside his head quite a bit more and understand him better. It does not make us like him any better. I found many of April’s outbursts inexplicable, blaming herself, outwardly at least, for this and that. I could not see how she would reach such conclusion. Yes, I know people do this, have even swum those waters myself. But, while I may be missing something here. I found it a bit tough to swallow. Revolutionary Road is definitely an interesting piece of work, with a keen eye for self-delusion, and a larger-picture scan of an era. Good stuff if you do not mind being a bit bummed out. It may encourage you to give a thought to how you might be kidding yourself. And that makes it a worthwhile read. Most of this review was written in 2009, but it was not posted then. I updated and posted it in December 2015

  10. 5 out of 5

    Navidad Thélamour

    Rightfully a classic and will forever be one of my favorites. Damn, that's good writing! The Navi Review | Twitter | Bookstagram

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    Yates is adept at picking apart the well-intentioned duplicity within couples, which both causes and prevents further hurt, misunderstanding and deception, and the chasm between thoughts/dreams and actions. The competitive dynamics of suburbia are similarly exposed. Keeping up appearances is important, which is why, at the start of the novel, April is so upset at the debacle of the am dram. Plot This is the painfully insightful story of a youngish couple, with two small children, living in New Eng Yates is adept at picking apart the well-intentioned duplicity within couples, which both causes and prevents further hurt, misunderstanding and deception, and the chasm between thoughts/dreams and actions. The competitive dynamics of suburbia are similarly exposed. Keeping up appearances is important, which is why, at the start of the novel, April is so upset at the debacle of the am dram. Plot This is the painfully insightful story of a youngish couple, with two small children, living in New England in the 1950s. Both have lingering hurt and dysfunction from their childhoods, which exacerbates the slow and painful disintegration of their relationship. April has the idea of a fresh start in Paris, where she will support Frank till he works out what he wants to do with his life. This exciting possibility and shared aim changes the dynamic of their lives. Caution (but only a slight one) Don't read this if you're in a long term relationship that is in difficulties, especially if you are stuck in a dull job as well: it may be too pertinent. That caveat aside, it's not a depressing book: as with all his books (which all have strong autobiographical elements) there is cold beauty in the pain of struggles with work, relationships, drink, and money. Original Clichés There are a few potential literary clichés used well and originally, so that each gives insight in a fresh way: (view spoiler)[ the Knox corporation being something to escape from and later something that provides escape; the nosey neighbour with "kinetic energy in the set of her shoulders...[and] angrily buttoned-up clothes"; John Givings as the wise fool, and Frank's unfinished path to nowhere (hide spoiler)] . Passages about Frank's work, and especially his cavalier approach to sorting his In Tray (pages 85 and 124) made a great metaphor for his approach to life, laden with overtones of Kafka - a tough target, hit with panache - much like the whole book. Yates Revival I read this just before the film came out because I wanted to see the film. Good call. I loved the book and enjoyed the film. Apparently the resurgence of Yates' popularity predates that and was prompted by this excellent article about him and his works: The Lost World of Richard Yates, by Stewart O’Nan, in The Boston Review, here.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I love e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g about this book. Start with the cover—the big red family car, the white suburban houses in the background, the silhouette of a tree and a tumble of fallen, autumnal leaves scattering the ground. Doesn’t it put you in the mood of the hopeful fifties in New England, in America? That is the setting of the book. We look at a couple of suburban families, three to be more exact. What happens over the course of almost a year? That is it; that‘s the story. Two are young famili I love e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g about this book. Start with the cover—the big red family car, the white suburban houses in the background, the silhouette of a tree and a tumble of fallen, autumnal leaves scattering the ground. Doesn’t it put you in the mood of the hopeful fifties in New England, in America? That is the setting of the book. We look at a couple of suburban families, three to be more exact. What happens over the course of almost a year? That is it; that‘s the story. Two are young families with young kids. The third is past middle-age with an adult offspring, certified as insane. He, the “insane”, is about the same age as the kids’ parents. I love what the book says about conformity. I love the dialogs. They are utterly perfect, so absolutely real. The prose captures to a T how couples interact--how we behave and the things we say to one another. The book looks at life in New England communities in the fifties, but it speaks to us still today. I could site example after example of how it so well mirrors conjugal relationships—then and now. One must suffice. Isn’t it often the female of a couple that cares less about what others, those observing a verbal dispute, might think? Who says, “Lower your voice?!” The husband or the wife? Which of the two desires to keep disputes private? The story illustrates the reality of the American Dream. We start on the surface; everything looks hunky dory, but what lies underneath? Cracks begin to show. Kids picnicking, playing on the lawn, frolicking under a sprinkler. A radio announcement advertises men’s clothing at rock-bottom prices. Parties, cocktails in hand and spouses eyeing a neighbor’s wife or husband. Clothing, the feel of the weather, the tension and atmosphere in the air, facial expressions and body poses are all minutely and expertly drawn. Emotions resonate—vibrating anger and cold detachment, attraction and sexual appeal. It is this that makes the book work so well for me. Life is drawn with a blend of the serious, the absurd and the ridiculous. Pathos and humor are intermixed. Mental stability is a central theme. Is it only the insane who, lacking inhibition, dare to speak out against the emptiness of everyday lives--of going to a job you hate, of never daring to step out of line to honestly speak your mind? Why do we abdicate control of our lives to others? Why are people generally so scared of being different? Why are we so complacent, satisfied by so little? Life is a mix of the serious and the funny and both are drawn here. The ups and downs of marriage—disagreements and arguments, loss of tempers, biting retorts, lashing out of bitter words and regrets and reconciliation. too. Then, with sore points visible, the book circles back and looks at why problems have arisen. What in the past has shaped the characters? People get married scarcely knowing who they are themselves, and then, when married, are expected to figure out how to deal with another, someone they know even less. These are the themes the book looks at, and I think it does this extremely well. The audiobook is magnificently narrated by Mark Bramhall. Every single character sounds exactly as they should. He brings out what the author wants said, yet he never over-dramatizes. The young and the old, the male and the female, all the different character types are perfectly drawn. Five stars I have given the narration. It perfectly captures the nuances in the author’s prose. I want to champion the book’s message, and I find it to be extremely well executed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    “That’s how we both got committed to this enormous delusion—because that’s what it is, an enormous, obscene delusion—this idea that people have to resign from real life and ‘settle down’ when they have families. It's the great sentimental lie of the suburbs...” This incisive, crushing portrait of a crumbling marriage stirred up a lot of emotions in me - heartbreak for the characters' plights, awe at the brilliance of the writing. But most of all it made me feel happy (and relieved!) to be single. “That’s how we both got committed to this enormous delusion—because that’s what it is, an enormous, obscene delusion—this idea that people have to resign from real life and ‘settle down’ when they have families. It's the great sentimental lie of the suburbs...” This incisive, crushing portrait of a crumbling marriage stirred up a lot of emotions in me - heartbreak for the characters' plights, awe at the brilliance of the writing. But most of all it made me feel happy (and relieved!) to be single. On the surface, the Wheelers are a perfect suburban family and the embodiment of the American Dream. Frank commutes from their beautiful home to a well-paid job in New York city while April looks after their two adorable children. But instead of being content, they feel trapped. They see themselves as better than their ordinary neighbours and the dull Connecticut surroundings. April devises a plan which will see the family move to Europe, so that Frank, a deep thinker, can find himself and they can leave this unfulfilling life behind. But fate and their own weaknesses conspire against them, and this dream soon turns into a horrible nightmare. They are not a particularly likable duo, the Wheelers. Frank has an insufferably high opinion of himself and enjoys grandstanding with his latest philosophical musings. April meanwhile, is spoilt and self-important. And the thing is they don't even like each other - blazing rows are the norm and both of them are unfaithful over the course of the story. And yet Yates does a outstanding job of making us care for this complicated couple. He taps into those universal feelings of being misunderstood and underappreciated, as April tearfully admits: "I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere, as far ahead of me as the seniors at Rye when I was in the sixth grade; people who knew everything instinctively, who made their lives work out the way they wanted without even trying, who never had to make the best of a bad job because it never occured to them to do anything less than perfectly the first time. Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I’d suddenly know that I belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I’d been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in the meantime had been a mistake; and they’d know it too. I’d be like the ugly duckling among the swans." There is an unsettling atmosphere from page one of the story when April's play turns out to be a disaster, and Frank's ham-fisted attempts to comfort her kick off a huge argument. We just know this will not end well for the Wheelers and our fears are confirmed when tragedy eventually strikes. Their harrowing predicament serves as a cautionary tale for anyone involved in a loveless, caustic relationship. It is a bleak and haunting book, full of rich insight and rightly hailed as a modern classic.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

    Revolutionary Road is a masterpiece of a genre that’s largely considered played out—the novel of suburban malaise. It’s a social novel about The Way We Live Now, only in this case Now is over 40 years ago and Yates’ take on the plight of the poor souls marooned in corporate/suburban America has long since been digested and superseded. It still persists to some degree—in films like American Beauty, novels such as Tom Perotta’s Little Children, and the brilliant TV show Weeds. But, American Beauty Revolutionary Road is a masterpiece of a genre that’s largely considered played out—the novel of suburban malaise. It’s a social novel about The Way We Live Now, only in this case Now is over 40 years ago and Yates’ take on the plight of the poor souls marooned in corporate/suburban America has long since been digested and superseded. It still persists to some degree—in films like American Beauty, novels such as Tom Perotta’s Little Children, and the brilliant TV show Weeds. But, American Beauty aside, contemporary takes on suburbia tend to be much less tragic and portentous. Frank and April Wheeler, Yates 20-30-something protagonists are, in their own misguided way, dissidents struggling against certain stereotypically oppressive aspects of American life in the 50’s: conformity; the tedium and banality of life in the suburbs and the mid-century corporate workplace (they live in Connecticut, Frank works in New York); in April’s case, against a life of homemaking and childrearing. The problem is they don’t seem to have very good intellectual resources for waging the struggle. The practical, material resources are probably there—they are well educated (at least Frank is), intelligent, they make a good impression, while not rich they are far from destitute. But they are hampered by all kinds of romantic illusions, illusions that keep them from coming up with a plausible escape plan, or making the most of the hand they are dealt. They are tormented by the idea that they are not living up to their best selves (and this is true) but they have utterly self-deluding notions about what their best selves are or how to bring them into being. They are so afraid of being corrupted by their environment that they hold themselves aloof from the life around them. Their aversion is largely aesthetic, but the pop psychological and sociological theories they use to explain to themselves why they are alienated are inadequate to the task. They want to lead lives of significance, but the best they can do is to concoct a vague and implausible scheme of moving to France, where the plan is for April to work as a secretary while Frank sits around the apartment trying to figure out what to do with himself. I mean, if they want to do something worthwhile with their lives, Frank could become a teacher, or, at the other end of the scale, go to work for the kind of high-powered advertising firm portrayed in Mad Men (he graduated Columbia and has a way with words). April could have, at the very least, volunteered to work at the NAACP. Yates is an extremely accomplished prose stylist. He’s a master of the vivid, transparent prose style that is the gold standard for writers of realistic fiction. He nails the details of life among the white middle class in the mid-to-late 50’s, while at the same time painting it as a more complicated and conflicted time than popular stereotypes would have you believe. He has an extraordinary ability to make you feel like you are deep inside the consciousness of his characters while at the same time watching them from a great distance. And the central dilemma his characters face—how to live a worthwhile life in a world that often conspires against it—is not one that will go out of fashion any time soon.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    This is definitely an "it's not you, it's me" book. The writing was lovely. I thought he captured the setting, tone, etc. extremely well. And I can imagine for its time, this book was pretty groundbreaking, and I can see why it's had a resurgence of popularity in the last decade or so. But honestly the storyline and theme of disillusionment in America, for me, is overdone. I've read a lot of books and plays (and this one definitely felt like something akin to an Albee or Miller play) that touch This is definitely an "it's not you, it's me" book. The writing was lovely. I thought he captured the setting, tone, etc. extremely well. And I can imagine for its time, this book was pretty groundbreaking, and I can see why it's had a resurgence of popularity in the last decade or so. But honestly the storyline and theme of disillusionment in America, for me, is overdone. I've read a lot of books and plays (and this one definitely felt like something akin to an Albee or Miller play) that touch on this topic. But I can't fault the book just for doing something others have done. I've read a lot of books that are thematically similar but they all stand out for different reasons. My main issue with this book is that it didn't have any characters I could root for; not ones I could love or hate. They just sort of existed. We spent so much time in Frank's head, and I would've really rather spent more with April. She was a far more interesting character to me. When the author did jump around into other characters' minds, I was intrigued. But then we'd return to boring, old Frank who was basically a bitter middle class man that felt lost in life and trapped by his circumstances. Ho hum. That's sort of how I feel about this. I'd give Yates another chance because, like I said, great writing. But this one didn't do much for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates Revolutionary road, Richard Yates. New York: Bantam Books, 1962. 247 Pages. Revolutionary Road (released December 31, 1961) is author Richard Yates's debut novel. It was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1962 along with Catch-22 and The Moviegoer. When published by Atlantic-Little, Brown in 1961, it received critical acclaim, and The New York Times reviewed it as "beautifully crafted... a remarkable and deeply troubling book." In 2005, the novel was chosen Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates Revolutionary road‬, Richard Yates. ‏‫‬‭New York‏‫‬‭‬‭‭‬‭‭: Bantam Books‭‏‫‭, 1962. 247 Pages. Revolutionary Road (released December 31, 1961) is author Richard Yates's debut novel. It was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1962 along with Catch-22 and The Moviegoer. When published by Atlantic-Little, Brown in 1961, it received critical acclaim, and The New York Times reviewed it as "beautifully crafted... a remarkable and deeply troubling book." In 2005, the novel was chosen by TIME as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present. Set in 1955, the novel focuses on the hopes and aspirations of Frank and April Wheeler, self-assured Connecticut suburbanites who see themselves as very different from their neighbors in the Revolutionary Hill Estates. Seeking to break out of their suburban rut (and consequently blaming herself for all of Frank's "problems"), April convinces Frank they should move to Paris, where she will work and support him while he realizes his vague ambition to be something other than an office worker. The promise of France brings the two together in love and excitement again, and Frank seemingly ends his relationship with Maureen. While April sees the emigration as an opportunity to escape their dull environment, Frank's plans are more driven by vanity of his own intelligence, which April panders to. When the dull and prim neighbor Mrs. Givings begins bringing her "insane" son John around to the Wheelers' house for regular lunches, John's honest and erratic condemnation of his mother's suburban lifestyle strikes a chord with the Wheelers, particularly Frank. Their plans to leave the United States begin to crumble when April conceives their third child, and Frank begins to identify with his mundane job when the prospect of a promotion arises. After arguing over the possibility of aborting the child, Frank tries to manipulate April into seeking psychiatric help for her troubled childhood. April, overwhelmed by the outcome of the situation, suffers something of an identity crisis and sleeps with her neighbor Shep Campbell, while Frank resurrects his relationship with Maureen. April attempts to self-abort her child, and in doing so is rushed to the hospital and dies from blood loss. Frank, scarred by the ordeal and feeling deep guilt over the outcome, is left a hollow shell of a man. He and his children spent time living with their uncle, hence mirroring the youth of their mother. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سی و یکم ماه می سال 2014 میلادی عنوان: جاده رولوشنری - فیلمنامه؛ فرزاد حسنی؛ تهران، افراز، 1391، در 248 ص؛ شابک: 9789642438969؛ موضوع: فیلمنامه های امریکایی - سده 20 م عنوان: جاده انقلابی؛ کارگردان: سام مندس؛ تهیه‌ کننده: بابی کوهن؛ سام مندس؛ اسکات رودین؛ نویسنده: جاستین هیث؛ بر پایه همین رمان از: ریچارد ییتس؛ بازیگران: لئوناردو دی‌کاپریو؛ کیت وینسلت؛ کیتی بیتس؛ مایکل شنون؛ موسیقی: توماس نیومن؛ فیلم‌برداری: راجر دیکینس؛ تدوین: طارق انور؛ توزیع‌کننده: پارامونت ونتیج؛ تاریخ‌های انتشار: 26 دسامبر 2001؛ مدت زمان فیلم: 119 دقیقه؛ محصول: کشورهای آمریکا و بریتانیا؛ زبان: انگلیسی؛ کتاب و فیلم هردو روایتگر زندگی یک زوج خوشبخت است، که در دهه پنجاه سده ی بیستم میلادی در ایالت کانکتیکات (جاده رولوشنری) زندگی می‌کنند. این زوج به تدریج احساس می‌کنند که در زندگی زناشویی گرفتار شده‌ اند، و شادمانی مورد نظرشان را نیافته‌ اند و ... ؛ ا. شربیانی

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I've been putting off reviewing this book. I didn't enjoy reading it, and it wasn't because the characters were unlikeable, which they were. There are authors who can write great books about people the reader hates. This wasn't one of them. I get the whole 1950s values/suburbia/trap that Frank and April found themselves in. I just didn't care. He was a whiny, immature, alcoholic. She was a bored suburban housewife whose only sense of identity was tied into how successful Frank may/may not be in l I've been putting off reviewing this book. I didn't enjoy reading it, and it wasn't because the characters were unlikeable, which they were. There are authors who can write great books about people the reader hates. This wasn't one of them. I get the whole 1950s values/suburbia/trap that Frank and April found themselves in. I just didn't care. He was a whiny, immature, alcoholic. She was a bored suburban housewife whose only sense of identity was tied into how successful Frank may/may not be in life. I think I mostly felt sorry for their children. I'm tempted to tie this book in with a discussion of Roe v. Wade, but, once again, I just don't care.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    As any lover of the arts knows, an artist's reputation depends not only on what society thinks of their work, but also what they think of it over the passage of time, with many creative professionals' careers dipping up and down over the decades based on changing trends and tastes. Take American author Richard Yates for an excellent example; celebrated by the academic community when he first started writing in the early 1960s, he was considered in the vanguard of the nascent "postmodern" movemen As any lover of the arts knows, an artist's reputation depends not only on what society thinks of their work, but also what they think of it over the passage of time, with many creative professionals' careers dipping up and down over the decades based on changing trends and tastes. Take American author Richard Yates for an excellent example; celebrated by the academic community when he first started writing in the early 1960s, he was considered in the vanguard of the nascent "postmodern" movement, mentioned in the same breath back then as such eventual masters as John Updike and Norman Mailer. (And by the way, I'm defining postmodernism here as developing at the same time and rate as the Vietnam War; so in other words, something only intellectuals were aware of when Kennedy first took office, but that had taken over the mainstream by the time Nixon was wearing wide lapels.) But unlike his peers, Yates' career ended up sputtering out about halfway through, with him eventually dying in the '90s on the cusp of obscurity, known if at all only by academes who specifically study the subject of postmodern literature; it wasn't until a series of such scholars started making a case for him in the 2000s that most of his work even went back into print, capped this year with an extremely high-profile Oscar-bait film adaptation of his very first novel, 1961's National Book Award nominated Revolutionary Road. I just read it myself for the first time this week, in fact; and now that I have, I can easily see not only why Yates was once considered on the forefront of very challenging highbrow lit in the early '60s, but why his work never broke out of the academic gutter while he was alive, and why it's so ripe to revisit at this particular moment in history. Because as many of us now know because of the details behind its film adaptation (it was directed by Sam Mendes, creator of the similarly themed American Beauty), Revolutionary Road turns out to be one of the very first artistic projects in history to have taken on the subject of the Big Bad Suburbs, a topic that eventually became a veritable hallmark of postmodernism and prone to hacky excess by the end of the movement. (That's also something to point out for those who don't know, that I consider postmodernism to have ended on September 11th, and that for the last decade we've actually been living through the beginning of a brand-new artistic age yet to be defined. The Age of Sincerity? The Earnest Era? Literature 2.0? The Obamian Age?) And indeed, it was important for the postmodernists to take on the subject of the crumbling suburbs, and of the utter sham they considered the entire concept of the "nuclear family" (a paradigm that was in fact to fall apart precisely during the postmodern years), exactly because it was the paradigm that their parents' generation embraced so whole-heartedly themselves, the sharp lines and unruffled feathers and black-and-white morality of Mid-Century Modernism. And ironically, even that was mostly a reaction to the mainstream paradigm of the generation before them, in this case the moral relativists of the Lost Generation and Great Depression of the 1920s and '30s, the gloomy sex-obsessed nihilists who brought about the ethical murkiness of World War Two and the Holocaust; the entire creation of the "nuclear family" paradigm after the war in the first place was as a direct reaction to those pulp-fiction years, an attempt by an entire society to say that there really is a series of black-and-white ethical values out there that really do apply to every person, not the world of infinite grays presented to us by the artists of the Weimar Era, the screenwriters of film-noir Hollywood and more. Of course, the tropes of Mid-Century Modernism too were found not to work, because humanity is simply more complex than this; and that's what this first wave of "post-Modernist" writers expressly became known for, for pointing out the growing cracks in this shiny plastic Eisenhower facade that most of America had voluntarily slapped on itself in the '50s and early '60s. And that's what led to the counterculture, which led to Watergate, which led to the second age of murky moral relativism that the '70s brought us; and society's reaction to that was once again the good-guy/bad-guy cowboy mentality of the Reagan years. And thus does the great wave of artistic history keep ebbing and flowing, ebbing and flowing. But, well, okay, you say, that covers half the mystery, of why Yates was so fawned over at the beginning of his career; but what about the other half, of why his work never caught on with the public in the same way as Updike or Mailer (or Vidal or Pynchon or DeLillo for that matter)? And after reading just one book of his now, I'm already starting to see the answer; because when all is said and done, Revolutionary Road is not necessarily a condemnation of the bland soul-killing suburbs themselves (although partly it is -- more on that in a bit), but rather is absolutely for sure a profound and overwhelming criticism of whiny, overeducated, self-declared intellectuals who feel they're "above" such pedestrian environments. It is in fact a big shock about the book, given traditional expectations that the ensuing Postmodern Age has created for such tales about the Big Bad Suburbs, and also given the glee in which movie stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio threw themselves into these roles for the film version; that Frank and Alice Wheeler, the poetry-reading Connecticut couple at the heart of our tale, are far from heroes in the traditional sense of the word, with Alice coming off more like a misguided dupe by the end and Frank more like an out-and-out despicable villain. And that's because Yates has a different message to convey about the suburbs than you might expect, a much more cynical message than that they're simply bland and soul-killing; he seems to argue that they're not only that, but that this is what most people deserve, and that such plebes can actually have a legitimately decent and happy life within such circumstances as long as they're willing to accept their plebian fate. For example, Yates goes out of his way to show that the young Frank isn't actually an intellectual, not from the stance of being academically trained for the subject, or even naturally talented enough to contribute something legitimately useful to the national conversation of deep thoughts; he's simply the most clever one out of the couple's circle of mostly brain-dead suburban friends, the guy who always seems to be in the center of the spotlight at every Friday-night neighborhood cocktail party. Place most men in such circumstances, Yates seems to argue, men with tiny little dreams and tiny little life expectations, and they will undoubtedly make a nice tiny little life for themselves with such material, undoubtedly become the guy in the neighborhood who always makes the most elaborate Halloween costumes, the guy always asked to head up school-play set designs and workplace book-discussion clubs. No no, Yates argues, the problem isn't with the people who are simply looking for such a life and not much more, nor the ones who definitively know that such a life simply isn't for them, and quietly decide to live different ones in inner cities without much fuss; no, the problem is with the whiny little "clever" ones, the ones exactly like Frank and Alice, who endlessly bitch and moan about their mouth-breather surroundings but then do nothing about it, who sanctimoniously pass judgment on their ranch-duplex-owning neighbors even while peering at them through the plate-glass windows of their own ranch duplex. That's how the book opens, in fact, with a disastrous premiere by the new neighborhood community theatre company, which wouldn't have been nearly as bad if celebrated as a simple act of creativity, instead of the failed experiment in bringing a highbrow sensibility to the meatsacks that the Wheelers had first pictured it as. It's a debacle for the young family, exacerbated by them being exactly snarky enough to laugh bitterly at the idea of it "at least being a fun experience anyway," and it leads the couple to realizing that something is truly wrong in their relationship, truly and seriously skewed from the unfocused bohemian vision the once Greenwich-Village-living couple had for themselves. (In fact, this is a running joke throughout the manuscript, how the couple wishes to live a creative lifestyle but can't think of anything creative to actually do. "Why is it only painters and writers who are allowed to find themselves?" they're constantly asking in a witty way during cocktail parties, yet another sign of the murky counterculture right around the historical corner.) But see, this is where the book gets truly interesting, and is the question that consumes most of its very quickly paced 450 pages; because is this unfocused bohemian vision the right one for the couple to have? Just what do the Wheelers want out of life, anyway? For example, it becomes obvious over the course of the novel that Frank doesn't actually mind the minutiae of Corporate America that terribly much, certainly not as much as he complains about, and that his problem is a much more universal one faced by most office workers in their late twenties, to simply have their ideas taken seriously and sometimes implemented, to slowly gain a bit of authority and respect among their co-workers for what they do. And in fact this is a big reason that I consider Frank so despicable to begin with, because he's a moral waffler who doesn't know exactly what he wants, who is too weak to simply sit down and make priorities and then consistently stick to them, even if that means occasional sacrifices. Just take the subject of whether the couple will ever have another child beyond the three that already exist, a running topic throughout the entire manuscript that becomes more and more important as it continues; notice how Frank's opinion on any given day is usually defined in relative opposition to whatever it is that the people around him want, how he will unthinkingly take on contradictory positions sometimes simply so that he can continue to have an excuse to argue with his wife, to feel like he's always "winning" in this hazy competition he sees them having. In this, then, as mentioned, Alice herself comes off less as a deliberate villain and more like an unfortunate victim; because despite her willingness to revel in the closed-door smugness over their neighbors that Frank so naturally loves, it's obvious that she's at least more ethically consistent over her unhappiness, that their half-baked scheme at the beginning of the book to "move to Paris in the fall" was something she at least took very seriously, not the excuse Frank sees it as to put off real introspection of his life for yet another three months. You can at least feel sympathetic for Alice throughout the course of Revolutionary Road, at least see her as the simple bohemian girl she sees herself as (itself a reaction to her own Scott-and-Zelda out-of-control Jazz-Age parents); it's Frank who's the grand, complex, maddening tragedy-in-waiting, and it's no coincidence that we follow his inner-brain thoughts more than anyone else's throughout. It's Frank who professes to despise his 9-to-5 job, yet loves that it can afford him a discreet marital affair played out in air-conditioned Manhattan hotel rooms; it's Frank who convinces his wife and their urbane best friends to start hanging out at the local crappy roadhouse for ironic enjoyment (yet another calling card of postmodernism, the act of enjoying crappy things for ironic reasons), yet is the first one to eventually start enjoying the place in a non-ironic way, and to become a legitimate regular there. Or in other words, he's one of those smug, holier-than-thou 29-year-old white-collar 'creative class' weasels you always want to smack when you're around them, the kind who's a major contributor to the problems of that world but claims that he isn't, just because he has a subscription to MAKE magazine and contributes snotty parodies of his day job to AdBusters. Yeah, one of THOSE weasels, like I said, the kind who happily accept all the little perks of the bourgeois lifestyle while still feeling themselves ethically superior to the little acts of banal monstrosity such bourgeois commit on a daily basis, in order to maintain their bourgeois lifestyle. This is not an easy lesson for most middle-class book lovers to embrace -- that they're either too stupid to understand all the problems their vapid, culture-free lives are creating for society, or are smart enough and simply don't care -- and it makes it easy to see why books like these would be embraced by a doom-and-gloom '60s academic community even while being mostly rejected by the book-buying public. But on the other hand, what Yates warns about here in 1961 is exactly what happened during the Postmodern Age, and it's exactly this clueless vapidity in the '70s, '80s and '90s suburbs that led to the grand post-Bush messes we're facing right this second; and that's why right now might be the best time of all to revisit Yates' work, and to understand the lessons that he was trying to tell us now that we're a generation removed from the activities, now that we don't take his damnations quite so personally. Revolutionary Road turned out to be a better book than I was expecting, albeit a much darker one as well, and one much more critical of its exact target audience than you'd think an award-winner could get away with. It explains much about how America eventually became the trainwreck we now know it as, of how we could so profoundly lose touch with such concepts as personal accountability, personal responsibility; it's a shame that it took most of us nearly 50 years to realize this about Yates' remarkable book, but how great that we finally now have.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)

    3 Stars “No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying.” Alternate titles for this book include: Not-So-Subtlety Talking About Masculinity Gender Roles Suck Everyone is Really Unhappy Gatsby Thought He Had it Bad Vonnegat once compared this to Gatsby, and I think that's incredibly accurate. If Gatbsy is about the American Dream in the 1920s, this is a fantastic disillusion of 'achieving' that dream in the 1950s. Frank is a narcissist obsessed with preserving his own masculinity-- the secr 3 Stars “No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying.” Alternate titles for this book include: Not-So-Subtlety Talking About Masculinity Gender Roles Suck Everyone is Really Unhappy Gatsby Thought He Had it Bad Vonnegat once compared this to Gatsby, and I think that's incredibly accurate. If Gatbsy is about the American Dream in the 1920s, this is a fantastic disillusion of 'achieving' that dream in the 1950s. Frank is a narcissist obsessed with preserving his own masculinity-- the secretary in the office wore that dress just to taunt him, damn it! April was... hard to figure out? Her whole character arc revolved around her not even knowing who she was, so it was hard for me to feel connected to her at all. It was very hard to rate this, because I appreciate what it was trying to say-- I just don't think I agree with it? The whole premise of people being stuck in 'mediocre lives' is inherently depressing and disregards a lot of the wonder in everyday life.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    One of my favourite novels, and easily one the greatest ever written, Richard Yates goes right for the necessary to work out who one really is. Summer, 1955, Frank and April Wheeler are living what to many would believe is the suburban American dream, wholesome friendly neighbours, and for Frank an undemanding job in Manhattan, all appears grand. But it isn't. The Wheelers might be young, beautiful and feel full of promise to the outside world, but they harbour little affection for each other. Bo One of my favourite novels, and easily one the greatest ever written, Richard Yates goes right for the necessary to work out who one really is. Summer, 1955, Frank and April Wheeler are living what to many would believe is the suburban American dream, wholesome friendly neighbours, and for Frank an undemanding job in Manhattan, all appears grand. But it isn't. The Wheelers might be young, beautiful and feel full of promise to the outside world, but they harbour little affection for each other. Both Husband and wife are bored, with each other, with their lives. April has a plan, to escape this emptiness, one that will enable Frank to quit his job and realise his potential while she works, of course those familiar with Yates's work will know that happy and fulfilling lives are not around the corner. As Richard Yates's masterly debut novel unfolds, we see self-deception deepen, and a marriage going to the dogs. Revolutionary Road is a work of serious moral intent, and not to be taken lightly, not that that's even possible, though there are extremely amusing moments, they don't really equate to much. It's gripping without resorting to melodrama (melodrama is one of my pet hates in books), the story is entirely at one with the characters' dilemmas. Yates, who died in 1992 had so much in common with the people he wrote about, that's why he is so darn good as a storyteller to the flipside of the American dream. This is one of the best novels ever written about the difficulty in living life accordingly. And the narrative is simply stunning.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    Frank Wheeler, once a rebellious seeker of alternative choices, a young social vagabond, the nicotine-stained, Jean-Paul Sartre kind of guy, testing his boundaries and prospects, and being regarded as 'a veteran' (of WWII) and 'intellectual', finds himself getting married to April Johnson, once an aspiring actress, a graduate from drama school. Whatever happened in her life, she was always ready to take flight whenever she felt like it. For April he was 'The Golden Boy', the 'terrifically sexy g Frank Wheeler, once a rebellious seeker of alternative choices, a young social vagabond, the nicotine-stained, Jean-Paul Sartre kind of guy, testing his boundaries and prospects, and being regarded as 'a veteran' (of WWII) and 'intellectual', finds himself getting married to April Johnson, once an aspiring actress, a graduate from drama school. Whatever happened in her life, she was always ready to take flight whenever she felt like it. For April he was 'The Golden Boy', the 'terrifically sexy guy'; for Frank she was 'the first rate girl' he was looking for. A perfect match, they thought. As society prescribes, they settle down in suburbia in a comfy-cozy life they both tried to run away from as young people. Despair quietly moves in when Frank find himself wearing a coat, suit and hat, and taking off for work each day by car and train and working in the same office building and for the same company his father did. He is a typical young graduate who wanted a well-paid job with little input. April becomes the blueprint perfect housewife - taking out trash, raising kids to the national cute and adorable standard, and slowly losing herself and her dreams of independence to the American blueprint of what is right and proper - the great sentimental lie of suburbia. Little disappointments are sneaking into their life of joyous derangement and exultant carelessness, resulting in them bickering and bellowing at each other. Frank concludes that he does not 'fit the role of dumb, insensitive suburban husband'. The point is it wouldn't be so bad if it weren't so typical. It isn't only the Donaldsons--it's the Cramers too, and the whaddyacallits, the Wingates, and a million others. It's all the idiots I ride with on the train every day. It's a disease. Nobody thinks or feels or cares any more; nobody gets excited or believe in anything except their own comfortable little God damn mediocrity. On Frank's birthday April proposes a move to Paris where American conformity does not rule, and where society still strongly supports individual freedom of choice . Their insecurities are bouncing out of the woodwork as the pressure mounts to make a decision. "This is our chance, Frank," she tells him. "This is our chance." The America of the 1950s was characterized by prosperity, conformity and consensus. The development of national highways and suburbs, as a ripple effect of the expanding motor industry, enabled many crowded city dwellers to move into the suburbs. Conformity came in the form of living in row upon row upon row of 'Levittown' houses with little individuality or distinction. It was also the beginning of mass marketing through television and the need for people to compete with the Jonesses. Life was all about safety security and status. The time period was everything but dull and tranquil. Psychoanalysis became a buzz industry. Just about everything and anything was thriving. However, an emptiness and hopelessness settled in suburbia. Revolutionary Road has this era as background with two young people getting married and living the American Dream. As demands grew on their time, abilities, and character strength, they turn their survival battle inwards, destroying themselves and anything they deemed hidden behind the four walls of their home. The results are tragic. The Revolutionary Hill Estates had not been designed to accommodate a tragedy. Even at night, as if on purpose, the development held no looming shadows and no gaunt silhouettes. It was invincibly cheerful, a toyland of white and pastel houses whose bright, uncurtained windows winked blandly through a dappling of green and yellow leaves. Proud floodlights were trained on some of the lawns, on some of the neat front doors and on the hips of some of the berthed, ice-cream colored automobiles. Anything, or anybody stepping out of the fold was ruthlessly thrown aside. People were destined for asylums who tested the boundaries. Experimental drugs ruled the period in which it was believed that social conformity could be obtained through medication on a national scale. It would give birth to the massive rebellion of the Sixties and onward. The Sixties would become the decade of turbulence, protest, and disillusionment. The book opens with a performance of a popular play by a community drama group, The Laurel Players. After reading the book, I went back to this play and realized how symbolic/metaphoric it was. The audience, arriving in a long clean serpent of cars the following night, were very serious too. Like the Players, they were mostly on the young side of middle age, and they were attractively dressed in what the New York clothing stores describe as Country Casuals. Anyone could see they were a better than average crowd, in terms of education and employment and good health, and it was clear too that they considered this a significant evening. They all knew, of course, and said so again and again as they filed inside and took their seats, that The Petrified Forest was hardly one of the world’s great plays. But it was, after all, a fine theater piece with a basic point of view that was every bit as valid today as in the thirties (“Even more valid,” one man kept telling his wife, who chewed her lips and nodded, seeing what he meant; “even more valid, when you think about it”). The main thing, though, was not the play itself but the company—the brave idea of it, the healthy, hopeful sound of it: the birth of a really good community theater right here, among themselves. This was what had drawn them, enough of them to fill more than half of the auditorium, and it was what held them hushed and tense in the readiness for pleasure as the house lights dimmed...This book is a criticism and reflection on the era. The plot contains so many layers of emotions, events, social challenges, and personal struggles of all the characters that the impact of the book will be lost if I tried to include it all in this review. It is a timeless story that will confirm the origins of current world affairs long after we have all departed for greener pastures. The story line is slow moving, intense, detailed. Character building takes a long time, but provide the insight into all the persona who filled up the pages. And of course nobody is perfect, and nobody is really to blame. Not if the reader can place this tale in the historical circumstances of the time and understand how all the elements worked together to present Frank and April Wheeler to the world. All I can say is that it was certainly one of the best reads ever. I haven't seen the movie, but while reading the book, I was wondering how big a challenge it would have been to capture all the elements in this book in a fast moving movie script. Not possible. My gut feeling tells me that the book will be the best bet. It is a masterpiece. A PERFECT READ. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Idarah

    "If you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone." When I think of Revolutionary Road, I can't help but think of a friendemy I was acquainted with some years ago. Our conversations usually started out charmingly enough (she was quite the bookworm), but usually ended on a low note when she'd start criticizing everything about me in a jovial, joking sort of manner. I never knew if it was me or her that was nuts! Anyway, o "If you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone." When I think of Revolutionary Road, I can't help but think of a friendemy I was acquainted with some years ago. Our conversations usually started out charmingly enough (she was quite the bookworm), but usually ended on a low note when she'd start criticizing everything about me in a jovial, joking sort of manner. I never knew if it was me or her that was nuts! Anyway, one day I remember her inviting me to have dinner at a little Thai place. I reluctantly agreed, but then nearly left the restaurant after awkwardly waiting 45 minutes for her at a table alone. When she finally graced me with her presence it was to tell me she'd been outside...in her car...listening to the last part of Revolutionary Road on audio disc. She couldn't tear herself away. I was prepared to finally tell her off and to get lost, but this revelation made my annoyance dissipate immeadiately. She'd said it was engrossing, but that she hadn't enjoyed it. Having finished it myself, I find that I feel exactly the same way. I've never disliked so many characters in one novel!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Revolutionary Road is a masterpiece of realistic fiction and one of the most biting, scathing critiques I've ever read of 50s era American optimism and conformity. Bored with their dull, safe, suburban existence, Frank and April Wheeler – who've always felt they were destined for something great – attempt to carpe their diem, and make plans to move to Europe, where Frank can "find" himself. Still as sharp and relevant as it must have been when it was published over 50 years ago (!), Yates's book Revolutionary Road is a masterpiece of realistic fiction and one of the most biting, scathing critiques I've ever read of 50s era American optimism and conformity. Bored with their dull, safe, suburban existence, Frank and April Wheeler – who've always felt they were destined for something great – attempt to carpe their diem, and make plans to move to Europe, where Frank can "find" himself. Still as sharp and relevant as it must have been when it was published over 50 years ago (!), Yates's book is brutal in its uncompromising look at our petty vanities and self-deceptions. Fine passages abound, from the opening sequence – set at the disastrous opening of a community theatre production of The Petrified Forest – to a series of awkward encounters with a neighbour's mentally disturbed son, who says what everyone's thinking but nobody admits. What's also fascinating about the novel is how Yates plays with narration. We switch POV several times, getting deep into the lives of the main couple, but also entering the minds of one of their neighbours – who's always lusted after April – and the town's successful female realtor. Flashbacks are handled gracefully, and symbols never feel forced. I found some of the writing around the 2/3 mark a little slack, perhaps because it deals with a certain subject that doesn't have the stigma it had back in the 50s, when the novel is set. And at times Yates's judgement of his characters – although honest and perceptive – feels a little too harsh. But this book deserves its place in the American literary canon. ** Here's my review of his second book, the masterful collection of stories, Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness

  24. 5 out of 5

    brian

    well, i read the book ages ago and it left such an impression that when i signed up for bookface i stamped the sucker with a fiver. the gothsissy promises if i re-read it i'll knock off a few stars. whatever. i saw the movie last night and a word popped into my head: smimsicholy: a specific combination of smug-whimsy-melancholy seen in the work of certain 'important' artists and/or entertainers. yeah. if sam mendes is the cinematic anti-christ than this movie's his mastercheese. it's a laughable well, i read the book ages ago and it left such an impression that when i signed up for bookface i stamped the sucker with a fiver. the gothsissy promises if i re-read it i'll knock off a few stars. whatever. i saw the movie last night and a word popped into my head: smimsicholy: a specific combination of smug-whimsy-melancholy seen in the work of certain 'important' artists and/or entertainers. yeah. if sam mendes is the cinematic anti-christ than this movie's his mastercheese. it's a laughable piece of bourgeois chest-beating. precious and maudlin and false. and it covers the unholy trinity (smug/whimsical/melancholy) while somehow managing to create even more of an abomination out of the sum of its parts. the bush era saw some very good american films and i think one of the best, and perhaps the one that will most define our time, is there will be blood. and i fear the obama age is gonna produce a lot of smimsicholic nonsense. i see that dave eggers (the king of literary smimsicholy) and his wife vendela vida (never read her but her name just reeks of it) wrote the screenplay for mendes' next movie. and it looks dreadful. check it: http://www.apple.com/trailers/focus_f... revolting. i'm not really such a prick. this shit just makes me freak out a little bit.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    There’s an impression that American manhood took a nosedive in the ‘60s after a generation of manly men beat back the Nazis and then turned their no-nonsense pragmatism and can-do spirit to business and started a huge economic boom. Since those damn dirty hippies ruined the country, and liberal crybabies made being a hetro white male a crime, it’s just been generation after generation of worthless girly-men ever since. However, after watching Mad Men and reading Rabbit, Run and Revolutionary Road There’s an impression that American manhood took a nosedive in the ‘60s after a generation of manly men beat back the Nazis and then turned their no-nonsense pragmatism and can-do spirit to business and started a huge economic boom. Since those damn dirty hippies ruined the country, and liberal crybabies made being a hetro white male a crime, it’s just been generation after generation of worthless girly-men ever since. However, after watching Mad Men and reading Rabbit, Run and Revolutionary Road, I’m starting to think that maybe we aren’t so bad after all since the men of the ‘50s and early ‘60s seem to have been self-absorbed, passive aggressive bastards who are so insecure that they demand that their women love them unconditionally even as they do everything they can to break their spirits and make them cater to their every whim. I feel like John Wayne compared to Rabbit Angstrom or Frank Wheeler. Frank and April Wheeler are a maddening couple. Frank is a bullshit artist who spent some time in New York’s hipster scene in the ‘50s convincing everyone that he was something special. He’s not, but poor April doesn’t find that out until after they get married. A couple of pregnancies later and they’re living in a suburban enclave while turning up their noses at the 1950’s American lifestyle they’re leading. The main problem they have is that while Frank talks a good game and acts like he’s better than his job and the suburban life, he’s actually kind of comfortable and would be happy to just keep coasting along. But April is itching for something more and uses Frank’s ego to trap him into agreeing to move to Paris. When he actually starts succeeding at his job in the marketing department, Frank uses every trick he’s got to convince April to drop the idea of moving to Europe. I couldn’t stand the selfish Frank any more than I could stand Rabbit Angstrom in Updike’s book, and I have an idea that hell may be having endless cocktails with those two idiots. But I didn’t have much patience with April, either. She got a crappy condescending husband, but thinking that moving to Paris is going to fix everything that’s making her unhappy isn’t very realistic. Great book, but a depressing story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    I have heard a story about a king who asked his court historian to write a comprehensive history of all the great men who ever lived. Appalled by the size of the tome created, the king kept on asking the scholar to edit it, putting only the absolutely important events common to all of them. Finally, the effort ended in one sentence: “They were born, they lived, and they died.” The moral of the story is simple – reduced to the basics, each human life is the same: brief candles destined to survive I have heard a story about a king who asked his court historian to write a comprehensive history of all the great men who ever lived. Appalled by the size of the tome created, the king kept on asking the scholar to edit it, putting only the absolutely important events common to all of them. Finally, the effort ended in one sentence: “They were born, they lived, and they died.” The moral of the story is simple – reduced to the basics, each human life is the same: brief candles destined to survive as insignificant blips in the vast time-space continuum. But we don’t think of it like that, of course. For us, our lives are terribly significant. Many of us dream of making our mark on the world and leaving our names etched in history for the benefit of posterity (at least, those of us who are lucky enough to think beyond mere survival). Banality is the biggest source of existential angst for the educated middle class. To live a humdrum life of relative obscurity (most probably in the suburbs); work lifelong at an uninteresting job that gives you money in exchange for the death of creativity; spend your spare time in mindless socialising with equally ordinary people; and to produce children and gift them the same mindless existence… this living death is what one will find many people fighting against all their lives. What sustains them are dreams – dreams of a future in a different place, in a different profession, in a different life. No matter if it does not happen – hope is many a time sufficient. But in the case of Franklin and April Wheeler, it was not… *** The Wheelers live in a suburb of New York, in a quaint little house on Revolutionary Road. The year is 1955. In America, the roaring twenties have given way to the Great Depression, followed through by the devastation of a second world war within two decades of the first. The American Dream is still alive – but one can see it fraying at the edges. Frank and April are both misfits, he the unplanned-for unwanted last son of a proletarian couple, and she the daughter of a divorced couple who had no time for her, but who she loved with all her heart. Their marriage rather like the continuation of their affair, with no commitments and responsibilities on either side until April gets pregnant. She wants to abort the child, but the rather conventional Frank is dead against it (even though he really does not want it). Ultimately, she gives in – and Frank is forced to take up a job to become the householder: and they are trapped in the humdrum of suburban existence. Frank’s job in the town is boring in the extreme. He has no loyalty to it, and does not do a single honest day’s work: his only interest is the paycheck (“like suckling pigs looking for a free tit”, he calls the employees standing in the bank queue waiting to withdraw their salary). He despises the very profession that feeds him, the meaningless office routine which is an end in itself. How small and neat and comically serious the other men looked, with their gray-flecked crew cuts and their button-down collars and their brisk little hurrying feet! There were endless desperate swarms of them, hurrying through the station and the streets, and an hour from now they would all be still. The waiting mid-town office buildings would swallow them up and contain them, so that to stand in one tower looking out across the canyon to another would be to inspect a great silent insectarium displaying hundreds of tiny pink men in white shirts, forever shifting papers and frowning into telephones, acting out their passionate little dumb show under the supreme indifference of the rolling spring clouds. The only thing that sustains Frank (and we assume, April – we see her POV only in one chapter towards the end) is the quality life that they live with their friends, once free of the tyranny of the humdrum. But in the suburbs, even that is losing its sheen. ”Hi!” They called to one another. “Hi!…” “Hi!...” This one glad syllable, born up through the gathering twilight and redoubling back from the Wheelers’ kitchen door, was the traditional herald of the evening’s entertainment. Then came the handshakings, the stately puckered kissings, the signs of amiable exhaustion – “Ah-h-h”; “Who-o-o” – suggesting that miles of hot sand had been traveled for the finding of this oasis or that living breath itself had been held, painfully, against the promise of this release. In the living room, having sipped and grimaced at the first frosty brimming of their drinks, they pulled themselves together for a moment of mutual admiration; then they sank into various postures of controlled collapse. When the much awaited release itself becomes a parody, real escape is required. This is driven home to April when the amateur play put up by the neighbourhood, in which she starred, collapses. After a drawn-out fight with Frank, who is battling his own demons in the form of an affair with the office secretary, she brings up the solution – they will move to France (where Frank had been posted during the war), and she will do secretarial work while he takes time to “discover himself”. After demurring a bit, Frank agrees; but just as they are about to move, the unexpected happens – and from there, it all goes downhill… *** Richard Yates has structured this novel brilliantly. In three parts, it is a classic three-act tragedy: with the initial crisis, the rising action and the final devastating resolution. Yates is a brilliant observer (though extremely cynical, I would say), and he structures his scenes in masterful fashion. There is hardly a word out of place. The novel starts with the play the neighbourhood amateur theatre group, the Laurel Players, is putting up. It is The Petrified Forest, Robert E. Sherwood’s Broadway play which is significantly about a young woman trying to escape her drab existence – the author thus metaphorically sets the scene for what is to follow. The play bombs, with only April as the leading lady able to salvage something out of it – however, it results in tipping her over the edge into temporary hysteria. The fight the Wheelers have on the drive home presages events to come; it is also evidence for the mastery of the author over his medium. Then the fight went out of control. It quivered their arms and legs and wrenched their faces into shapes of hatred, it urged them harder and deeper into each other’s weakest points, showing them cunning ways around each other’s strongholds and quick chances to switch tactics, feint, and strike again. In the space of a gasp for breath it sent their memories back over the years for old weapons to rip the scabs off old wounds; it went on and on. Neither Frank nor April are very appealing people – nor are their friends and neighbours. Yates has a way of getting into the head of the character whose POV is being currently used and showing him/ her up in very unflattering light: yet, for all that, they somehow excite our compassion through their very human weaknesses and vulnerability. It is as though the author is saying to his reader: “Yeah, I know that mankind is a sorry species, but let’s not be too hard on them, ok? Don’t forget that we both belong to it!” It is not by accident that the only person who speaks the uncomfortable truths openly in the novel, is a young man who is certified insane. John Givings, the son the real estate agents who sold the house to the Wheelers, appear in the story at crucial intervals to hold the mirror to its protagonists. As he tells Frank: You want to play house, you got to have a job. You want to play very nice house, very sweet house, then you got to have a job you don’t like. Great. This is the way ninety-eight-point-nine per cent of the people work things out, so believe me buddy you’ve got nothing to apologise for. John Givings is also the person responsible for the final moment of truth in the story, when the inevitable downslide starts. This is not an edifying novel by any means. If you are looking for a comfortable read, this one is better avoided. However, for those readers interested in perceptive works of art which hide layers of meaning beneath its everyday façade, this one is a must.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Helle

    This was by no means a feel-good book, but it was a well-written, well-told story. Think Madame Bovary meets American Beauty meets the Laura Brown character from The Hours – all portraying various mixtures of suburban spleen (or ennui) and personal and marital deroutes. Written in 1961, the novel describes how two people within a marriage deal with (or rather don’t deal with) various issues in 1955, some of which are society-induced, like the post-world war economic boom in the United States and This was by no means a feel-good book, but it was a well-written, well-told story. Think Madame Bovary meets American Beauty meets the Laura Brown character from The Hours – all portraying various mixtures of suburban spleen (or ennui) and personal and marital deroutes. Written in 1961, the novel describes how two people within a marriage deal with (or rather don’t deal with) various issues in 1955, some of which are society-induced, like the post-world war economic boom in the United States and the subsequent sense that the new creed of the day is materialism, resulting in news jobs seeing the light of day in the city (primarily for the husbands) and new houses sprouting in a growing suburbia (mainly for the wives to clean and manage); and some of which seem of a more personal nature, e.g. the psychological aftermath of having been abandoned in childhood (as seen in April Wheeler). Even though feeling trapped in Suburbia is supposedly the couple’s reason for wanting to break out and try their luck in Europe, I suspect they really wouldn’t be happier elsewhere, but this is the mythology they believe in: that they are too good for this bourgeois nightmare and that they can’t possibly be happy here. They don’t realize that their dysfunction is of own their own making; they live on Revolutionary Road, after all. I won’t go further into the story, but I will say that it was a heart-rending, sometimes almost painful read, especially as a parent (my heart wept for the kids). I knew how the story would unfold because I had seen the movie (starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio), and I simply cannot fathom the reviews here on GR that describe the bad acting, bad directing etc. We must not have seen the same movie. (And excuse me, since when are Kate Winslet and Leo Di Caprio bad actors? In what universe??) As an aside it was interesting to encounter lots of 50’s concepts and expressions. People had drinks all the time, notably Martinis (that part of the socializing reminded me of the Great Gatsby, with its superficial tones and jarring undertones) and smoked like crazy (the ‘alleged’ dangers of smoking were still laughed at), and they said things like, “Are you sore at me?” and “Isn’t that the damnedest thing?” For execution of theme and ideas and for accomplished prose this was almost a five star read for me. For how it made me feel afterwards, I’m down to two stars, tops. But that’s an emotional reaction, which really should also be to the author’s credit because it requires great skill to make a reader feel saddened and disillusioned by a book. It’s not a novel I would have read if it hadn’t been suggested in one of my reading groups; I’m partly glad I did.

  28. 4 out of 5

    dianne

    Frank and April, April and Frank, for whom marriage was a constant competition, jockeying for imagined purchase for a better demonstration of their power over the other. War of the IDs (Dr. Freud's id, not identification - although they had issues with that, too) A Shiny Happy couple who have two healthy children and decide to move to the suburbs; but-of-course holding themselves above their neighbors and ‘friends’ while they slipped right into the roles; maintaining great disdain for what and wh Frank and April, April and Frank, for whom marriage was a constant competition, jockeying for imagined purchase for a better demonstration of their power over the other. War of the IDs (Dr. Freud's id, not identification - although they had issues with that, too) A Shiny Happy couple who have two healthy children and decide to move to the suburbs; but-of-course holding themselves above their neighbors and ‘friends’ while they slipped right into the roles; maintaining great disdain for what and who they had become and those they lived among. Frank actually practices his superiority in the mirror, in the window - wherever he can see himself - looking tough, manly, different, trying facial expressions and postures to reinforce his private mythology. His narcissism melts into the ease with which he rationalizes an affair; it’s April’s fault, really, in Frank-think, she didn’t make him feel masculine enough. Increasingly angry at ... well everyone, they, at least she, begins to recognize that who you are, or think you are means nothing if your actions don’t jive. Their overwhelming selfishness made them just another set of distant, oblivious, unpredictable, careless parents; ironically just like their families of origin, the ones they never stopped complaining about, and blaming for their imperfect lives. Frank can barely stand being around his children. They're so childish, and beyond being necessary accessories to the vision he has of himself, they're pretty useless. Right? April slowly acquires an understanding; a recognition of her feelings, and she becomes more desperate to undo what had been done. She wants her body, her choice, her next 20 years back. April, alone with what might as well have been a coat-hanger. I’m guessing that R. Yates didn't set out to illustrate a pre-Roe v Wade tragedy, but he did, and the thousands of women whose lives were (and increasingly still are) ruined by the lack of choice are too rarely mourned. As she reflects on her early decisions, how she ended up in this dreadfully unhappy place - drowning, soaked in mendacity, surrounded by strangers: “Even on the level of practical advantage it must have held an undeniable appeal; it freed her from the gritty round of disappointment she would otherwise have faced as an only mildly talented, mildly enthusiastic graduate of dramatic school; it let her languish attractively through a part-time office job (“just until my husband finds the kind of work he really wants to do”) while saving her best energies for animated discussions of books and pictures and the shortcomings of other people’s personalities….” Don’t we all need more time to animatedly discuss the shortcomings of other people’s personalities? “...and to repay him...by telling easy, agreeable lies of her own, until each was saying what the other most wanted to hear…” When it's too late April realizes: “What a subtle, treacherous thing it was to let yourself go that way! Because once you’d started it was terribly difficult to stop; soon you were saying “I’m sorry, of course you’re right,” and “Whatever you think is best,” and “You’re the most wonderful and valuable thing in the world,” and the next thing you knew all honesty, all truth, was as far away and glimmering, as hopelessly unattainable as the world of the golden people….and then you were face to face, in total darkness, with the knowledge that you didn’t know who you were.” Or who anyone else was - as closeness meant vulnerability - and that had to be avoided at all costs. “From a distance, all children’s voices sound the same” *** A helluva book. Highly recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This is a novel by a white male that is highly praised over the decades by other white males. In it, a white male only treats his wife well if she gives back all of the power and stops emasculating him by deigning to have her own life and opinions or (god forbid) expresses a desire for bodily autonomy. He is critical of suburbia because is promotes feminism too much (!) and agrees to have a job when they have children even though he intentionally finds a job that will pay him to do nothing, beca This is a novel by a white male that is highly praised over the decades by other white males. In it, a white male only treats his wife well if she gives back all of the power and stops emasculating him by deigning to have her own life and opinions or (god forbid) expresses a desire for bodily autonomy. He is critical of suburbia because is promotes feminism too much (!) and agrees to have a job when they have children even though he intentionally finds a job that will pay him to do nothing, because this is the privilege of his place in the world. I really can't decide if I love or hate this novel. Is Yates exposing the damaging nature of post-war masculinity? Is he pointing out the impossibilities of female beauty standards? Or is he perpetuating these problems with a complete lack of self-awareness? I mean, this is from 1961. So it's hard for me to tell. The women in this novel are only seen through the eyes of their husbands, and their gazes are hypercritical. Frank feels the need to point out to his wife how bad of an actress she is and frequently takes note of her extra weight since HAVING HIS TWO BABIES. Ugh. His friend in suburbia, on the other hand, is entranced by April and is constantly sexualizing her in his mind, and comparing his frumpy dumpy wife to her. The women are not given internal dialogues or intelligent consideration of anything; they are only doing the right thing when they do what is expected. This, as you might imagine, results in great tragedy... so does the author get it, actually? For now, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. Plus the writing has really great moments. "The the fight went out of control. It quivered their arms and legs and wrenched their faces into shapes of hatred, it urged them harder and deeper into each other's strongholds and quick chances to switch tactics, feint, and strike again. In the space of a gasp for breath it sent their memories racing back over the years for old weapons to rip the scabs off old wounds; it went on and on."Technically I purchased this novel years ago to represent Connecticut in my attempt to read a book set in every state. So here we go, Connecticut!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    From the first chapter this story gripped me and hardly let me put it down! Though there's nothing really happy or pretty about this story, the way Yates tells it is masterful. It's all about the hypocrisy of the American dream and how poisonous it and masculinity can be. There aren't any likeable characters here, really, and there isn't supposed to be. Yates examines the post WWII, suburban haven we now think back on with nostalgia, but which during the day rarely came close to its superficial From the first chapter this story gripped me and hardly let me put it down! Though there's nothing really happy or pretty about this story, the way Yates tells it is masterful. It's all about the hypocrisy of the American dream and how poisonous it and masculinity can be. There aren't any likeable characters here, really, and there isn't supposed to be. Yates examines the post WWII, suburban haven we now think back on with nostalgia, but which during the day rarely came close to its superficial happiness. I loved this book so much, the in-depth character and culture study it provided. This is an odd sort of book to recommend, but if you're interested in the psychology of characters and want it presented to you in excellent writing, read Revolutionary Road.

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