Eleven Kinds of Loneliness

April 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

11Eleven Kinds of Loneliness
by Richard Yates
published by Vintage

Eleven Kinds of Loneliness. The title alone was enough to pique my interest. Reading the blurb on the back I wondered whether I had finally stumbled upon a writer capable of dispelling the disappointment I had felt after reading the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yes, the parallels are often drawn between Fitzgerald and Yates; both wrote about similar themes: men and women who seemingly have it all yet always yearn for more; characters, who on the surface have nothing to be miserable about, yet feel utterly alone. The time frames during which most of their stories are set also have certain similarities: both post war generations seeking to understand their place in the world. And yet America would emerge from the Second World War as the most powerful nation on earth. It would enjoy a wealth and luxury that other nations aspired to. America never suffered the sense of victimhood that plagued many countries in Europe and Asia, and this gave rise to the unbridled optimism that was palpable during the 50’s & 60’s. Its foreign policy would alter drastically from that following the First.

It wasn’t what Fitzgerald wrote about, but the way he wrote, that I found frustrating. In this regard Yates differs fundamentally from F. Scott. His writing is clear, simple, and precise. This lends his stories with an incisiveness and allows him to deliver the angst, the isolation, the anguish, the guilt, and the embarrassment that his characters suffer with incredible force. His eye for detail: nervous gestures; reactions; thoughts, allowed for a touching portrayal of humans. Never once did I feel the stories venture into the depressing, gloomy, or hopeless. But rather, filled me with a sense of compassion for the characters and their predicaments.

As much as the above paragraphs may have led you to believe that you may find a certain Fitzgeraldish flavour to this collection of stories, it is perhaps in Yate’s other works where this is more strongly felt; Revolutionary Road, Easter Parade, or Disturbing the Peace.

Yates portrays themes that are universal and afflict humans across the globe, yet at the same time feel distinctly American. As is succinctly summed up on the back cover:

“…the American dream was finally coming true – and just beginning to ring a little hollow.”

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