It was Le Haggis that got me reading much of the Richard Yates’ catalog after the books languished in one of my bookpiles for several months. About the least that can be said about Richard Yates is that you should read everything he’s written immediately. Stewart O’Nan’s essay is a good place to start., if you’re unfamiliar with his life and work.
Along the way, I read Blake Bailey’s excellent biography, A Tragic Honesty, which proved far more sad and gripping than I expected it to be. While Bailey is a dutiful biographer, I did notice a few commonalities. Since Bailey’s bio seems to be making the rounds in the litblogosphere, I’ve devised a drinking game for those who haven’t yet read the book — that is, if you’d like to be thoroughly sloshed after just one chapter.
- Richard Yates drinks.
- Richard Yates smokes.
- Richard Yates yells at someone.
- Richard Yates criticizes a story with ruthless honesty.
- Richard Yates damns the New Yorker.
- Richard Yates tries to find work.
- Richard Yates’ living quarters is described as a sad and impoverished place.
- Richard Yates hits on a younger woman.
- Kurt Vonnegut shows up.
- Andre Dubus shows up.
- Richard Yates asks for an advance.
- The influence of F. Scott Fitzgerald is referred to.
- Richard Yates has difficulty breathing.
- Dookie Yates shows up.
- Richard Yates can’t climb stairs or has difficulty walking.
- When the phrase “to hell with _____” appears.
- John Irving’s The World According to Garp is trashed.
- Yates vomits.
- Yates hacks.
- Yates spends quality time with one of his daughters.
- Hollywood is trashed.
- Yates has a mental breakdown.