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Disturbing the Peace Paperback – April 1, 1984

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“One of the handful of American novelists…who can be said to have a ‘vision of life.’ ” —New York Times Book Review

“Richard Yates is among the very truest of American writers. Each of his novels and each story unfalteringly traces our destinies and rescues us from the lost. He sees eye-to-eye with every one of us.” —Gina Berriault

“Yates’ strongest novel since Revolutionary Road.” —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

A native New Yorker, Richard Yates was born in 1926; his first novel, Revolutionary Road, was a finalist for the National Book Award (in the same year as The Moviegoer and Catch-22). Much admired by peers, he was known during his lifetime as the foremost fiction writer of the post-war "age of anxiety." He published his last novel in 1986, and died in 1992.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (April 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385293321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385293327
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #618,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Some have said this is Yates' weakest work, and I suppose it might be, but I think credit has to be given to Yates for even managing to pull this off. This is a tough story to write, a man's journey from sanity to insanity. Yates stays in his usual third person narration all the way, even when the main character goes completely nuts, so his delusions become our delusions.

It's not a pleasant experience by any stretch of the imagination - we get a no-holds-barred view into Bellevue and the complete breakdown of the protagonist. There isn't a likeable character in the entire novel, which isn't that different from Yates' other works, but the problem here is that it's very tough to have any sympathy for the main character, John Wilder. In Yates' more successful books, no matter how nasty the characters, we can't help but to feel for their faults. Not so here.

Disturbing the Peace may not have the amazing pace of The Easter Parade or the driving power of Revolutionary Road, but it's still a pretty good read. It's a tough book to find nowadays, so if you can get your hands on it, pick it up.
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Format: Paperback
This is the story of John C. Wilder and his descent into insanity. Wilder is a highly strung hard drinking affluent salesman, a husband and father. He tries to hide his low self-esteem which stems from a mild dyslexia and being somewhat short in stature. He seeks to fill the void in his life through drinking and women.

At one point, all of Wilder's ambitions seem within his grasp. He falls in love with a woman who encourages him to pursue his dream of producing films, and it seems he has a real talent for it. However, the seeds of insanity are sown within him. Time after time, he reaches out for help, to his family, to psychiatry, to AA, looking for understanding and support, but every reed breaks at his grasp. It is a disturbing novel. We are left doubting if anything could have averted his fate.

Yates always gets everything right. The dialogue, speech cadences, observations, structure: his writing is a beautiful thing to observe. He is never simplistic. Yates has a reputation for being a devasting chronicler of American suburbia. He is that, but in this novel he shows that he can deliniate urban angst and despair as well.
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Format: Paperback
In his writing classes, Richard Yates said that the most important thing to him, as a writer, was "telling the truth." He wasn't interested in pyrotechnics. He was interested in technique as an instrument to be used in "telling the truth." He had us read "In Our Time" and "Nine Stories." He respected accuracy, economy, the telling detail. He had no interest in the fancy, the glib. He was obviously deeply influenced by Hemingway. For my money, Yates is better. This masterpiece will tell you what it's like to crack up. No Hollywood, nothing fancy, no self-pity. Just "telling the truth." Read this, then read the rest of Yates. You won't be sorry. The guy knew what he was talking about.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the early 1960s in Manhattan, John Wilder is a man in his mid-thirties with a seemingly successful career and great family life. A wife and son, with everything pointing to a promising life. But after a business trip, John calls his wife and says he is not coming home.

What happens next could be characterized as an abrupt break with reality, but Wilder's week in Bellevue, where he is placed after an episode of "disturbing the peace," can be seen as an inevitable midpoint to something that has been coming for a long time.

When Wilder's reflections carry us back in time to his childhood and the break from his family of origin, we can catch a glimpse of what might have set off this dark journey for him. Now, though, he begins a downward spiral that will carry him into insanity that is horrific and vividly shown to the reader, almost as if we are in his head.

Wilder's alcoholism complicates his journey, but some might argue that the drinking led to the insanity, while others would point to the alcoholism as just another symptom of his madness.

What is most remarkable about this tale of one man's unraveling mind is how the reader can experience the descent with the character. Even though told in the third person, we can see his view of the world and almost feel what he is feeling. As unsympathetic as this character presents to us, we cannot help but feel his pain.

I liked how the story ended. It is 1970, and we are now slightly outside this man's "head" for awhile and can see what the supporting characters are feeling, and how they have fared afterwards. Our outside view also includes a glimpse of Wilder. A startling revelatory glimpse.

After I turned the last page, I felt stirred as I hadn't in awhile by a book.
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From the very beginning, even the opening paragraphs of this book,seemed to have a sense of foreboding of bad things to come......

"Everything began to go wrong for Janice Wilder in the late summer of 1960. And the worst part, she always said afterwards, the awful part, was that it seemed to happen without warning.

She was thirty-four and the mother of a ten-year-old son. The fading of her youth didn't bother her--it hadn't been a very carefree or adventurous youth anyway--and if her marriage was more an arrangement than romance, that was all right too. Nobody's life was perfect. She enjoyed the orderly rotation of her days; she enjoyed books, of which she owned a great many; and she enjoyed her high, bright apartment with its view of midtown Manhattan towers. It was neither a rich nor an elegant apartment, but it was comfortable--and 'comfortable' was one of Janice Wilder's favorite words. She was fond of the word 'civilized', too, and of 'reasonable' and 'adjustment' and 'relationship'. Hardly, anything upset or frightened her: the only things that did--sometimes to the point of making her blood run cold--were the things she didn't understand."

In this story the protagonist, John Wilder is an advertising salesman with a wife and young son. He is a very unstable man, who sometimes drinks to excess, and a womanizer to boot. From the very early beginnings of this story, he appears to be suffering some sort of a nervous breakdown. A friend drives him to Bellevue Psych hospital where he spends one week in an involuntary lockup, and his reflections demonstrate he is somewhat delusional at times as well.

"I've been a turd under everybody's feet all my life and I've just now figured out there's greatness in me.
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