Richard Yates was an author who gained widespread acclaim and reputation as a candid realist in the 1960s, yet had surprisingly disappointing sales. Most of his works were out-of-print and obscure when he died in 1992. Today, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are helping to put this novelist back in the limelight once again.
Sam Mendes’ movie adaptation of Yates’ Revolutionary Road stars Winslet and DiCaprio – paired together for the first time since Titanic. The duo play April and Frank Wheeler, a 1950s suburbanite couple whose experience with the ‘American Dream’ is resoundingly unfulfilling.
Failing to embrace the optimistic post-war mindset, the Wheelers find themselves unhappily settled into suburban family life. Desperate to make it as an actress, April dreams of moving to Paris and “finding herself” which she believes will shake the tedium from her crumbling marriage.
Adopting an understated yet poignant style, Yates admits that most of the novel was tailored toward the book’s startling conclusion. “…the whole problem was to construct a book that would justify that ending,” claimed Yates in an interview, “and it wasn’t easy.”
The author’s debut book, which was both hailed as a stunning work of realism and condemned as an attack on marriage, Revolutionary Road was nominated for the National Book Award in 1962. Followed by an equally successful collection of short stories, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, Yates had been written off as a one hit wonder novelist before the release of The Easter Parade (1976), which has since been acclaimed by the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Larry McMurtry and Joan Didion.
Often compared to JD Salinger, Yates admitted to being influenced by writers like F Scott Fitzgerald, claiming that “if there wasn’t a Fitzgerald, I don’t think I would have become a writer.”
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