Pavel's Reviews > Cold Spring Harbour

Cold Spring Harbour by Richard Yates
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Jan 31, 11

it was ok
bookshelves: american, modern
Read from January 05 to 31, 2011

"When real life is wanting one must create an illusion"
A.Chekhov "Uncle Vanya"


Here is the trap with realistic prose, American realistic prose included: if you dare to portrayt ordinary life as it is, not "to create your own world", you have to be thousands and thousands times more precise, sharp, vivid, carefull and detailed to make your text interesting for the readers, make it distinctive in a way and at the same time accumlating experiences of its readers, generalize these experiences and at the same time tell a concrete story of a unique ordinary man. It works only with the best of the best writers, maybe geniouses. Chekhov is a summit of such writing IMO. For American prose first name that pops in my head is Steinbeck. In case of "Cold Spring harbor" I'm afraid we're dealing with attempt to reach their standards, which is very praiseworthy intention, but the result is very insufficient.

On the eve of World War II young attractive Evan meets young attractive Rachel who lives with her aging mother and pubertating brother and they marry. They are forced to live with Rachel's family. Evan family also exists: that's his father, who is retired army guy and his mentally ill mother, who almost never leaves her house. All these people have absolutely nothing to do, Evan job is not something Yates thinks worthy to describe (he is a car mechanic) and (this is main distinction from Chekhov or Steinbeck) they don't sincere enough to face it and to reflect, they just fill their lives with somethings, and this leads them to betrayl, madness or drinking at best.

For me this whole thing would be really interesting if for example Evan one day started to think what is going on with him and then the most interesting part would be how he got to that point and what he will be doing about it. But it wasn't me who wrote Cold Spring Harbor :) Either way I think that to make such story or pretty much lack of it interesting author had to put A LOT more efforts in portraying these people and their lifes.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Ronyell (new)

Ronyell Awesome review Pavel! I agree that stories that have more to say are the best!


Pavel Thanks, Ronyell


message 3: by Ronyell (new)

Ronyell You're welcome! :D


message 4: by Amy (new)

Amy I completely agree with your review, Pavel. I admit it's hard to find an American writer with as much attention to detail as a Russian one. I've been reading Russian writers (in English) for years now, and they don't lose anything in the translation; I have learned most of what I know about every day Russian life from Leo Tolstoy!

However, have you ever heard the term "magic realism"? It's a writing technique in which seemingly impossible things--like people flying away to escape a bad situation--are put forward as real to make the story more interesting, and tell it from the character's point of view. Who WOULDN'T want to fly away from a bad situation?

I love to read that style, though I tend to write with a lot more preciseness. Your review was very insightful for me as a writer. Thanks!


message 5: by Pavel (last edited Feb 13, 2011 11:51AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pavel Yes, Amy, I'm aware of this term, I absolutely adore Gabriel García Márquez, for me he's the most vivid writer in this style. Remember how Aureliano the Second and Petra Kotes were making love so passiontly that their nowts started to breed with thousands and thousands and made Aureliano absolutely the richest! :))

"I admit it's hard to find an American writer with as much attention to detail as a Russian one" Faulkner! Of course Faulkner is such a writer for America. I would never call him "realistic" writer, but his prose is unbelievably detailed.


message 6: by Amy (new)

Amy Well put, Pavel. I haven't read any Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I'm a big fan of William Faulkner. I've also just begun reading some Pearl S. Buck, and I'd say she's excellent with her description of detail. I've been surprised in the past at what journalists bring to the literary style. Artem Borovik wrote a book on Russia's war with Afghanistan ("The Hidden War")that was beautifully detailed, and the American Sebastian Junger is amazing with his books "Fire" and "The Perfect Storm".


Pavel Don't miss One Hundred Years of Solitude, Amy. You will have tons of fun.


message 8: by Amy (new)

Amy I've heard that it's wonderful; I'm going to get around to it one day:)


Sandy The thing is, I think you are missing the point. Not knowing why anything with Evan is what makes it so realistic. This is how people actually are. And really, do we need another Checkhov or Steinbeck to weigh us down?


Sandy P.S. I think you are bringing this era of narcissism into a time where it didn't exist.


Pavel I never said this text is not realistic, you're appealing to a point I've never made.


Sandy Pavel wrote: "I never said this text is not realistic, you're appealing to a point I've never made."

I do not see where I claimed you made the point that it wasn't realistic. What I said was this style of writing is what makes it realistic - not the same at all. I see now why you may not 'get' the whole Richard Yates style. If he's not for you, he's not for you.

I think there may be a bit of a language barrier here.


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