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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a hip read at the beach
I read 'Richard Yates' on a work night in the beginning of the week alone in my room. I had heard that 'Richard Yates' was a true account by the author, which was primarily my motivation to read it. I had only ever read 'Shoplifting' prior to reading 'Richard Yates.'

The content made me feel, at first, shame and resentment for my own teenage mistakes. I also...
Published on October 11, 2011 by a.dolan

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Written like a lot of these reviews
I agree with the other reviewers that say this novel is high on style but low on substance, that it's affected. I like that it's slow-burning and constantly shifting, and the way my brain gets into a new grove of reading/hearing/seeing facts and short statements, so that my perception of the world is changed for a bit when I stop reading and go to make dinner, or...
Published on July 27, 2011 by Shannon


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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Written like a lot of these reviews, July 27, 2011
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Shannon (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
I agree with the other reviewers that say this novel is high on style but low on substance, that it's affected. I like that it's slow-burning and constantly shifting, and the way my brain gets into a new grove of reading/hearing/seeing facts and short statements, so that my perception of the world is changed for a bit when I stop reading and go to make dinner, or whatever. Never mind its main characters are sort of terrible -- and not in a compelling way, just in a, oh, come on, sort of way.

But when I allowed my suspension of disbelief to snap, when I stopped trusting the author, it all came crumbling down, and I couldn't read more than a few sentences without rolling my eyes. It felt like listening to the kid in your freshman dorm who seemed so wise and fascinating, and then meeting him again three years later and thinking he's just full of it. The type who wears lamé American Apparel leggings and an artfully holey American Apparel tank top at 3 pm on a Wednesday in the Lower East Side. Just, no thanks.

To get a feel for the style of the writing, check out some of the other reviews here, especially the top ones. They're written in the same way as the book. Short sentences with simple structures that say facts. One after another. Maybe repeating words from the previous one, to really dig deep. Seems fresh at the beginning, and I liked doing the extra work that this style masterfully encourages, but after a while, it just grated on me.

Worth picking up to see what all the fuss is about, and I can't wait to see what Tao Lin does when his less-than-subtle style matures a bit. But for now, this isn't my favorite book. Even though I'm 25 and live in Brooklyn.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Literature for and about today's generation, April 23, 2012
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This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
I've always been suspicious about novels that cater to a certain audience, even if only a little bit. I have read certain authors that avoid this so much they go so far as to not include real-life products in their stories, in order to make their book "timeless". While that's extreme, going so far as to create a story that only really applies to modern teenagers is extreme in the opposite way.

Richard Yates by Tao Lin is about Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning (not the real ones), an older hipster-type guy and a young teenage girl with some self esteem issues. They meet on the internet and start a relationship. This causes many problems in both of their lives.

The best thing about this novel is also the worst thing: it perfectly captures the current generation (my own).

But when I say that, I don't mean it like The Great Gatsby perfectly capturing the Roaring 20's. Because when Gatsby did it, it took the corrupted morals and ideas of a party-oriented society and used it as a springboard to discuss the morals and ideas of everyone, everywhere, at anytime.

Richard Yates does a really good job in creating two characters who represent the Millenials. They are self-centered, loathing, and outsider-type individuals. They fit the "hipster" bill perfectly, eating only organic and steamed lentils and raw diets and vegetarianism. But underneath the callous exterior lies uncertainty. There is a certain poetry about today's generation that is misunderstood by everyone else. Except Lin. He manages to capture it without a misstep.

But if you're an older person reading this, you might roll your eyes and shrug off my description of my generation. And that's okay, I don't blame you. The opinion is subjective and lopsided and totally biased to me, because I like to glorify my generation. And Tao Lin does, too. So chances are, if you are over the age of 26, you probably won't like this book.

There are definitely a few unexpected twists and turns among the plot. I do appreciate those. But ultimately, the story line is boring and dry.

The Writing style also leaves a lot to be desired. It's supposed to be ultra-minimalism at its finest, and instead it comes off as shallow and lacking imagination. Everything falls into a "subject-verb-object" type sentence without much variation. And that would be fine if it was pretty and beautiful, but its oftentimes ugly and not entertaining to read. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to re-read or keep reading, because the text can be hard to swallow.

On the back of the book, a question is posed " What constitutes illicit sex for a generation with no rules?" This question isn't fully answered, and neither is much else in this book. I'd *maybe* rent this from the library if I got the chance, otherwise, I wouldn't go crazy having not read it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a hip read at the beach, October 11, 2011
This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
I read 'Richard Yates' on a work night in the beginning of the week alone in my room. I had heard that 'Richard Yates' was a true account by the author, which was primarily my motivation to read it. I had only ever read 'Shoplifting' prior to reading 'Richard Yates.'

The content made me feel, at first, shame and resentment for my own teenage mistakes. I also felt uneasy and inadequate that I didn't find it as humorous as other people did. So, at first, I felt negatively towards `Richard Yates,' as it made me feel poorly.
I didn't want my initial reaction and past experiences to shape my opinion of the book. After a week's worth of thought, I realized that I had received exactly what I wanted from `Richard Yates;' a literal retelling of events from a narrator unmotivated and unconcerned with my or anyone else's opinion of them. Behind the seemingly fake method of building a familiar brand is a product that is unusually authentic. It is likeable at times and unlikable other times. The book satisfied my curiosity about the author's life. This thought made me feel calm about the book. Things that I perceive to be authentic make me feel good about society and culture. I feel good. Thank you for `Richard Yates.'
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy This, September 8, 2010
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This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
Most refer to Lin's taut, blank prose as an 'in-joke' that they feel excludes them. Rather, 'Richard Yates' is the author's finest demonstration yet of a rare and profound courage: that which it takes to describe the most heart-wrenching and least-explored facets of the human condition with simple direction, and without the safety net of embellishment.

It's a demonstration of understanding that such things need no embellishment; that the voids, absences and repellently-common weaknesses within everyday individuals are as meaningful when explored plainly as the most vaunted and decorous conflicts in far more elaborate literature.

Yes, Lin writes primarily from and for a generation accustomed to communicating in literal, digitally-enabled prose lines. Yet in applying such a cultural norm to his own work, he illuminates without any special effort the unique and nakedly-honest troughs in the hearts of the millennial young.

Further, with the sort of efficacy that must only come from deeply personal observation, Lin applies himself to far more complex monsters, such as casual kleptomania or unexamined impulse behavior. Most prominently, his fashion of prose bluntly unveils the germination of a severe eating disorder in a teenage girl, in what may be the most faithful and effective rendition of such a condition in literature to date.

At the same time, there is nothing insular about 'Richard Yates'. While being a missive from and for a generation whose two worst fears are to be alone and to be mundane, in that order, there is a timelessness about the relationship portrayed in the book -- a tragedy of two who seek completion and approval from one another so greatly it devours and starves their ability to love one another. Alternately, it explores the great frequency with which dysfunction is often mistaken for (or interchangeable with) love in the modern era.

Much public assessment of 'Richard Yates' has unfortunately hinged on the age gap between the protagonists, one that has actually become much less shocking and far more commonplace among the twenty-somethings of today. Like Nabokov's classic Lolita, the book's primary merit lies in the poignant and thought-provoking interactions between two wildly dysfunctional and distasteful individuals; this is an end toward which taboo (if any) is simply a vehicle, not an end in itself.

Lin is frequently dismissed by many in their eagerness to vent resentment for feeling excluded from or irrelevant alongside a certain subset of internet-savvy individuals. The fashion of delivery would be relevant even in a vacuum. You should just buy the book, discard, if possible, any prejudgments, and appreciate it on its multiple levels.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving and stylistically perfect, November 9, 2011
This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
In Richard Yates, Tao Lin reaches beyond his previous novel I'm familiar with (Shoplifting from American Apparel), which was a fairly traditional coming of age story told with Tao Lin's signature spare, dissociated prose style (imagine, say, Hemingway writing about a landscape of cell phones and ipods). With Richard Yates, the style has been pared down more still to a complete pokerface, but it seems to exist not just as an eccentricity. The style has a purpose because Richard Yates is an exploration of an interpersonal relationship between two people who are not connecting -- possibly about the impossibility of their connection. We hear about their feelings only when they fumble and address each other, through online chats, through emails, through telephone calls, through emails composed in their heads -- we are not allowed the luxury of a polished narrator who neatly imposes order on the chaos that ensues when two very unstable people at a crux in their lives try to form and nurture an unlikely connection.

Tao Lin takes the emotional risks of Lorrie Moore -- his writing is sharply intuitive, is brimming with melancholy insight into the dangers and joy of love and thereby heartbreaking. He is willing to expose complicated emotional truths that aren't easily summarized. The book made me feel reflective about how I acted in relationships, definitely -- and how I do act in relationships. It made me question my own ideas about happiness. He also takes the stylistic risks of such authors as Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, using both content and form to convey his complex ideas. This is not to say that Tao Lin writes books like, say, Finnegan's wake. This book was definitely what I'd call a page turner. But it's a different kind of reading experience than most contemporary fiction -- it is unfiltered, raw, unconcerned with being profound, coming from a place of what seems like both raw hurt and intellect. Richard Yates is both sentimental and pretentious, a romance and a novel of ideas -- and yet it's a very concrete book. There is, of course, shoplifting, sex, bulimia, ebay, email, gmail chat. It is a novel about now, relationships now. This relationship, between a recent college graduate and a 16-17 year old girl with bulimia is tragic and beautiful. They try and fail and try and fail to redeem themselves and each other. We see hopes rise and fall. We read their email.

I think Tao Lin is an unflinching realist with a clear philosophical vision. He relentlessly presents readers with his vision (with what I understand are autobiographical writings) without slick narration and platitudes (or even figurative verbs) to soften the blow between the reader and the story. The result for the reader is being a bit disoriented and then that you really feel for the characters -- you do not have the safety of identifying with the narrator. It's an incredibly affecting experience and I believe this is his best book yet.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Review of Richard Yates, October 27, 2011
This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
Richard Yates is about Haley Joel Osment and his minor girlfriend Dakota Fanning. The novel follows their relationship from the first time they meet to well into their slightly deranged relationship. Altogether the age difference is the least of their problems.
I pretty much hated Haley from the beginning. Not only was he taking advantage of an obviously mentally unstable young girl. Which in itself is just slimy. But he is also whiny and self-absorbed. Dakota is naive enough to fall for Haley's self-righteous schtick. But she herself is not innocent of the same whiny, self-obsessed traits, however since she is sixteen there is some excuse there. Or maybe it was just since the novel was told primarily from Haley's perspective. Maybe if I had heard Dakota's inner thoughts I would have hated her for the same reasons I hated Haley. Instead of the just utter dislike and contempt I felt for her. Haley and Dakota refer to pretty much everyone they encounter as 'party-girls' and 'cheese beasts'. At times it seems surprising that they could even stand each other. They steal from any store they walk into without a second thought. Even at one point when Dakota is caught she acts as if it is of no importance. They throw thoughts of suicide at each other as if it doesn't matter.
Haley is completely stuck on Dakota. Constantly questioning every look she makes, every movement, trying to interpret if it means she really wants to be around him. But as their relationship progresses he becomes controlling and domineering to Dakota. Giving her orders on what to eat, how to behave, etc. Dakota wavers between completely needy and obsessed with pleasing Haley, to being an almost pathological liar. My personal favorite in the whole story is where she sends him an email telling him all the times she's lied to him. While unfortunately it shows how bad her eating disorder has gotten, at the same time it shows how she isn't being completely controlled by all his manipulative bs.
In all honesty they reminded me of quite a few people I knew growing up. They are convinced they are better than everyone else. Not because of money or looks, but because they assume they have a greater intellect than anyone around them. They believe this gives them the right to do as they please, even if this means hurting everyone around them. Instead of being a deep as they think they are, they are actually shallow and empty. Sorta like the conch shell on the cover of the book.

Ok. I knew going into this book that is is suppose to be one of those deep, existential, thought provoking books. And it did make me think. Honestly the characters, besides just reminding me of people I knew, and still know, they also reminded me of that episode of South Park, where people are running around sniffing their own farts and saying how wonderful they smell. Unfortunately this book wasn't quite as funny as that episode. I'm not saying this is a bad book. On some level it's a great study of how shallow and self-absorbed people can be, and how this leads them to isolate themselves. I'm sure there are many ways it can be translated. If you like existentialism or a book that will make you feel deep and meaningful, or where you can read into someones thoughts and actions and analyze everything that is done. Then read it. If you just want a book to read. Where you actually might like the characters, or at least a story you can get lost in. Yea, this is probably not what you want to read. I read somewhere that Tao Lin is one of those writers you either love or hate. I don't hate him. I just don't like this book. I found it the characters pretentious and pointless. But I can admire Lin's writing. His characters never did anything out of character. He didn't shy away from portraying them as he saw them, even when it was offensive or would cause you to hate them more. Since the description of this book says it is a "startling change of direction" for the author I would probably even read more of his work if given the opportunity.

*****In compliance with FTC guidelines, I'm disclosing that I received this book for free through GoodReads First Reads. ****
(I recommend everybody should go check out all the awesome first read giveaways they have!)
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is the edge of tolerable literature, January 2, 2011
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This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
Tao Lins style. Well that's what divides people. The fact that very quickly you become entranced by a voyouristic narrative shouldn't. Personally I'm indifferent to his matter of fact style because it presents an intrigueing story as a whole. If it didn't then I wouldn't even bother with this type of style, it's tedious at times and I tend to skim and not miss much. But in the end I get it.
The lifted gmail chats are what really make you feel a voyuer and what you find through them is a terrible mirror held up to the characters. I like this novel comparatively to his other work in that it's less desolate. There ARE characters, not just random encounters. Tao Lin works on the fringe, he trys to present the world as it is, where no one changes, most things bore us and everyone is two dimensional. This is the edge of tolerable literatere and it takes a real talent to make us sit on the edge with him and not walk away. To defy the conventional aproach to creating an entertaining story. This is why he divides. And I'll take what he presents: an indiference to life and apply it to his work.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Soup Can Art?, November 19, 2013
This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
This novel by Tao Lin will challenge the reader’s concept of art in much the same way that Andy Warhol did with this Campbell’s Soup can and his eight-hour movie of a man sleeping. Lin’s novel has insistent deadpan dialogue and a slew of emails just as insistently deadpan. A random—I swear—choice: “What’s going to happen”” said Haley Joel Osment. / “I don’t know. I can’t leave here. She won’t let me leave.”/ “Is she calling the police?” said Haley Joel Osment. / “No, I don’t think she will. I have to go. She’s here.” / “ I don’t know what to say,” said Haley Joel Osment. . . . And that was one of the more exciting exchanges. Just as Warhol argued that the act of freezing something completely realistic into an artifact de facto turns it into art, Lin must believe that freezing banal conversations between a sixteen year old girl and a twenty-three year old young author too constitutes art. And I’m not arguing the fact.
Moreover, I believe his two—three if you count the mother—all change in this novel. For the worse, unfortunately for each. The two younger characters seem involved in a folie a deux much akin to the characters in Angela Carter’s lovely but depressing novel LOVE. I’m not a stickler who claims that there must be at least one likeable character in every novel. Nope. Not at all. My overall reaction to this short novel (206 pages) is that it was painful to read. Painful in a good way in that the wandering exchanges were so angst-filled and young; painful in a bad way in that there seemed to be little or no arc in the novel’s plot—which is nearly non-existent, other than the changes that the characters undergo ever so slowly.
One last criticism, and this isn’t of the novel, but of a review I read of it: I’m loathe to identify Haley Joel Osment with Tao Lin. I’m also loathe to believe that Osment is inspired by a Richard Yates novel to leave the 16, then 17 year old Dakota Fanning at novel’s end. Rather, I believe that this novel could have continued for a thousand or more pages of painful dialogue before Dakota Fanning’s suicidal urges came to fruition, from the imbedded urges of both her mother and her lover. The two characters are stuck and intend to stay stuck.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How we are, November 27, 2011
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This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
I loved this book. I can say without sarcasm or irony or shame it assuaged me existentially. I feel like I admire a certain kind of commitment / effort required to write and read a book like this, and this has nothing to do with 'tedium' unless you're not paying attention, but that's okay, most people don't, and it has nothing to do with being a good or bad person or a smart or dumb person (okay, sometimes), it's just how people are. Art is hard, interacting with art is hard, finding art that is ready to interact with you as an individual is perhaps the hardest part.

I really enjoyed the relationship dynamic at the center of the book. I think it's confusing and perhaps funny how many people seem to dislike this book because the HJO character doesn't seem to often be a great person to be in a relationship with, as if the book isn't fictional, and even to whatever degree it might not be, how does that reflect on the book? That itself is an interesting thing to think about, so I guess now I'm glad some people think that way, even if I think those people are stupid (though I don't, but still do, which is why I'm confused).

What I enjoyed most about the relationship in the book is the confusion the HJO character feels when the DF character expresses cognitive dissonance daily in how she proceeds with her life, such as wanting to lose weight and be healthy while she is bulimic. The HJO character frequently gets upset and seems genuinely confused by this, as to why someone would say they want something or to act a certain way while never acting that way or doing what they need to be doing to enact certain outcomes in their life. This is something I personally connect with and find myself often doing. My personal feeling is along the lines of 'It often gets more complicated than that' but that just might be an excuse. I'm really intrigued that the HJO character seems to never 'suffer' from this; I'm curious if he really doesn't or the book is written in such a way that it only seems that he doesn't. My being intrigued by this is sort of stupid, though, as I'm interested in how he engages in the world this way if he really does, but if he really does it's not the result of any disciplined worldview (like I wish it were, so I could adopt it) but simply how he 'is'. This makes me wonder if this is still a worldview and daily practice that can be achieved by discipline and repetition, or if you have to be wired that way. This is the struggle that drives the relationship via conflict and resolution, and with it the novel. I'm interested in the disproportionate ratio of intense scrutiny on the behavior of the DF character, it shows some kind of abstract bias in the narrating entity. Again I'm glad for the extreme show/tell ratio--the fact that so little in the writer/reader relationship is dictated in this way creates a true sense of accessibility.

I'm curious about people who have problems with the style of the book, because it seems authentically stream-of-consciousness to me in a way (or rather stream-of-existence?), it feels like a good approximation of how life proceeds, so if people don't enjoy the style of the book how do they go about their lives? It also seems that this book abides by the cliche rule of fiction to show and not to tell (just because it is cliche does not mean I think it's wrong), this book shows everything and tells essentially nothing. Like anything else, especially in art, there's as much meaning and enjoyment as is generated by your interaction with the book.

I mean, is it true that a novel I've never read has literally zero meaning to me because I've never read it? If you read this book it has meaning to you, I think 'meaning' or 'making sense' etc. are lazy, ambiguous, useless terms. I think talking in detail about the degree and type of meaning you do or do not find in a book or piece of art is way more interesting.

I don't know why I've become so interested by the people who say things about this book when they didn't like it. I just looked at the Goodreads profile of one of them and one of her interests is 'cheese', so I thought 'Cheese beast. That is apropos, but only to me in this instance for maybe 15 seconds.' This doesn't make her a bad person, though.

I'm glad to have read this book and glad Melville House is putting this out. I thought that it could have easily been that this book might never have existed and genuinely felt intensely worried/sad/something, but that's a strange way to think about anything.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relationships, Gchat & Werner Herzog, November 4, 2011
This review is from: Richard Yates: A Novel (Paperback)
Many of the reviewers here have posted about Tao Lin's interesting and unique writing style. I enjoyed this element of "Richard Yates," however I don't think it differed significantly from his other work. What I prefer to think sets "Richard Yates" apart is its subject manner. Essentially, the entire book is about a relationship between two people. I can't recall any other work in which a relationship between the two main characters was not only the sole focus of the book, but in fact the book itself. There are no passages in which one of the two characters are not writing to, or thinking about, the other main character. I think this is incredibly difficult to pull off without coming off as dull, which all relationships inevitably are to outside parties (and sometimes inside ones as well). However, the book is engrossing due to its attention to detail in the conversations of the characters, which often seem so real as to be recorded verbatim (maybe Tao has a very good memory?) I loved the idea of a relatively internet-only relationship come to life with descriptions of pictures sent to each other, such as the one of Herzog riding the Loch Ness Monster. I also found the descriptions of bulemia to be quite accurate and true to life; having worked with eating disordered persons in my field. I liked this element of the book that other reviewers found to be "tacked-on" as a plot device; I really didn't see it that way at all. Simply put: when you get to know someone, you know all of them, and sometimes there are things you wish you hadn't found out. Dakota's bulemia turns out to be that element of herself that Haley doesn't want to see but can't ignore. In trying to help, he only makes things worse, and both of them understand this without really being able to change any of it.
In conclusion, I thought that this was an excellent work about relationships in the 21st century that really rang true to me in a lot of ways. It is my favorite work so far by Tao Lin, and I can't wait to see what he'll do next.
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Richard Yates: A Novel
Richard Yates: A Novel by Tao Lin (Paperback - September 7, 2010)
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