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Richard Yates: A Novel Paperback – September 7, 2010
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Bill Clegg, the author of Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man reviews Tao Lin’s new novel, Richard Yates. Tao Lin’s second novel is called Richard Yates. The two main characters are named Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment. Dakota Fanning. Haley Joel Osment. Richard Yates. Three names. To varying degrees and depending on when and in which circles they get mentioned, famous names. Richard Yates was a writer who achieved some fame, was basically forgotten and then, after his death, became appreciated again. Tao Lin used to use his own name and other not famous names for his protagonists and now he doesn’t. Or at least in this novel he didn’t. Haley Joel Osment is a more famous name than Tao Lin. There is much to suggest – in this book and most everywhere – that fame is a wanted thing. To be seen. To be recognized. To be witnessed. To be special. And now, because of the many portals available to access that status, being seen/witnessed/famous/special is achievable, to varying degrees, for everyone. Haley and Dakota meet through one of those portals online. They talk and text like most everyone. Like this. Like that. He said. She said. You get the idea. And so, the story: He’s 22. She’s 16. They text. They chat. They talk. Eventually, they meet. She binges, barfs, steals stuff, lies. He catches her. He tells her he cares. She promises to stop all the stuff he catches her doing. He reads a novel by Richard Yates. Doubt ensues. A gulf widens. Their future together looks less likely. A formal feeling follows. Everyone ends up a little sadder than before. There’s a poem by Daniel Halpern called White Field that was written long before the internet happened. I kept thinking about it when I read Richard Yates. It’s about the end of a relationship, starting fresh and looking back at that time and that thing that is now over. That time and that thing are depicted as footprints in snow, filling with new snow, soon to disappear. There’s a line in the poem, near the middle, that reads, All day long you tell yourself how you feel. In Richard Yate, Haley and Dakota tell themselves how they feel. All day long. All night long. In chat rooms, in e-mails, in texts, on the phone. They hear each other for a little while and then hear themselves more. And so the novel, with its famous name characters and its once famous, now famous again name title, wants to be seen and paid attention to; and if you happen to look, you’ll see that it’s saying– shrewdly, brilliantly, in the numb meticulousness of a generation that posts photographs on-line of half-sucked cough drops, about-to-be-eaten meals, and pillows they are about to lay their heads on – that you do, too.
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
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 in my 20s and live in Brooklyn.
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.'
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this about five years ago in my early 20s and still remember how aweful and disappointing this book was. It was irritating to read and so transparent.Published 4 months ago by Ted S
I hate and love Tao Lin. Mostly I hate him. There is no room for grey in this psrticular story though. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Ashton
He may have a thing with underage girls with low self esteem but he is a fun writer.Published 20 months ago by Ella Revzin
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. Read morePublished on November 19, 2013 by W. J. TAYLOR
Book arrived on time and in good condition...I like Richard Yates, but this book not so much...maybe it will take some time to connect with Tao Lin.Published on August 6, 2013 by Robert W. Mohs
If you're into Tao Lin, this is a good book. He's a deeply acquired taste, but "Richard Yates" is a much more linear novel than his past work.Published on July 25, 2013 by Kenso
This book is an exercise of non style. Amusing for the first few pages, then rapidly boring. I don't blame those who would not find the courage to continue through 200 pages of... Read morePublished on July 15, 2013 by Frederic Bachelet
The humor in this book took me by surprise, but I found myself chuckling and often laughing out loud while reading this. Read morePublished on May 20, 2013 by Scott Hutchins
love this guy he writes with diamond precision his prose are neatly whittled down minimalist masterpieces with infinite scope into the complex and often funny human conditionPublished on April 7, 2013 by dl hooker