Josh's Reviews > Richard Yates

Richard Yates by Tao Lin
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's review
Aug 18, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: read-2010, rumpus-book-club
Read from August 16 to 18, 2010

Richard Yates by Tao Lin is about 22 year old Haley Joel Osment, a writer and graduate of New York University, and his 16 year old girlfriend Dakota Fanning. Haley Joel Osment lives in Manhattan and meets Dakota fanning on the internet. After hours of gmail chat conversations, emails, and phone conversations Haley travels to New Jersey. They keep their relationship a secret from Dakota’s mother for months. Richard Yates follows Haley and Dakota as they hide the relationship, travelling back and forth from New York City to New Jersey, to Florida and back. Haley eventually ends up moving to the rural New Jersey town that Dakota is from. The relationship between Haley and Dakota becomes more rocky and strained as the story progresses and as they experience things within the relationship that neither have dealt with before. With the increasing strain on their relationship, Dakota develops an eating disorder, becomes a pathological liar, and Haley becomes uninterested and confused about the relationship and what he wants.

Lin’s novel has already sparked intense conversation among critics and reviewers. Richard Yates brings up serious questions about a generation that lacks rules and structure, the noticeable difference between younger generations and older, the straight-forward, somewhat banal, writing of a young author, what happens with a culture obsessed with technology, and many more.

Lin’s writing style is flat — short sentences detailing what each character is thinking and doing as the story progresses. There are no metaphors, no figurative language, no long, drawn out descriptions. This style of writing isn’t for everyone and can hinder reader from getting involved in the story.

His writing brings up questions about language — how younger generations are using it and developing their own — and how this will effect the language writers use. It was pointed out in book club discussion that Lin’s writing is being copied by a lot of writers in the 24-and-under crowd. This so called “net-language” is no longer limited to appearing on your Facebook Newsfeed and your Instant Message chats. Is a generation that grew up with the internet, with cell phones, text messages, email, and instant message watering down language? Studies have concluded that students’ writing is either getting better or getting worse. I can only say that, from experience, one of those studies is bullshit (the former). Other studies point to an increase in creativity.

This brings up another point: is this the future of writing? Despite Lin’s writing style, and if you can look past it, Richard Yates is actually a deeply engaging story about how people interact and how our technology can either hinder our emotions or enable them.

Why the title Richard Yates? Why name a book after a somewhat famous author? Revolutionary Road and The Easter Parade are considered Yates’ best novels. Yates didn’t necessarily critique his generation but told it as it as — “we are what we are” — in a very realistic sense. Tao Lin said that he was influenced by The Easter Parade while writing “Richard Yates.” Both novels are dry but I think that, as boring as the writing is, it is why Yates was so popular when these were published. You can get a sense of the value of it only after the fact. This is how I feel about Richard Yates, not that it is boring but that you have to get to the end to fully appreciate the whole story.

Even if this sounds like something you wouldn’t be interested in, this is something that needs to be read for all the reasons I mentioned above and more.
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