REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

I read in IMDB’s daily news report that Titanic co-stars Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio will reunite in a movie adaptation of Richard Yates’ 1950s novel Revolutionary Road. I hadn’t heard of this book before, so I did a little research.

Revolutionary Road is one of Time magazine’s Top 100 novels of all time.  Here’s how Time describes it:

YatesWe think of Updike and Cheever as the masters of postwar American suburbia, of its sunlit euphorias and its drunken discontents. Add Yates to the master list, just subtract the euphorias. His great novel is a bitterly funny and bitterly unfunny account of lethal disappointment in the Connecticut suburbs in 1955. When they were single and in love, Frank and April Wheeler thought of themselves as different—smarter, hipper, more alive. Then comes marriage and the steamroller of daily existence—his job for a big company, her wife-and-motherhood. The rewards of the material life seem like small compensation for the daily blows to the ego, which eventually detonate their lives. This may sound like a common predicament, but Yates gives it uncommon force. Though none of his six other novels enjoys the enduring prestige of this one, it doesn’t matter. If Revolutionary Road doesn’t make him an immortal, immortality isn’t worth having.

On Wikipedia, I found this statement from RIchard Yates:

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, as exemplified politically in the Eisenhower administration and the Joe McCarthy witchhunts. Anyway, a great many Americans were deeply disturbed by all that — felt it to be an outright betrayal of our best and bravest revolutionary spirit — and that was the spirit I tried to embody in the character of April Wheeler. I meant the title to suggest that the revolutionary road of 1776 had come to something very much like a dead end in the Fifties.

Kristen over at Books for Breakfast read Revolutionary Road earlier this month as part of her goal to read the Time Top 100, and here’s what she had to say:

Happy suburbanites Frank and April Wheeler pretend to buck conformity and plan on leaving their 1950s life of safety and security for an unknown adventure in Paris. Or Europe. Someplace. Just anywhere but there, where lawns must be mowed perfectly and friends dance with each other’s wives.

Not. Gonna. Happen. Of course. Or there would be no point to this tale.

Though there are some similarities to An American Tragedy, this book is much cleaner, its language like vodka instead of moonshine.

But this isn’t a challenged/banned book? Whuut? I am confused by the definition, then, of what is needed to be considered a challenged/banned book.

Lovely work, amazing imagery. It’s the first one I’ve truly liked in a while, and that feels good.

Now I want to read this book. Before the movie comes out.

3 Comments

  • March 30, 2007 - 9:05 am | Permalink

    I’ve read this book a couple of times–it’s harrowing and marvelous. I hope they don’t screw up the movie 🙂

  • Len
    April 4, 2007 - 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Wow–what a great post! I’m hooked, and I just put RR at the top of my way-too-long list of books to read.
    Thanks for helping to ensure that I never finish that list. 🙂

  • TLB
    September 6, 2007 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    I just finished this book – the writing is superb, not a word wasted. Perfect balance of dialogue, character development, descriptive prose – the overall effect is devastating and unforgettable. Not to sound too dramatic but this is really top 10 or 20 for me.

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