Eric's Reviews > The Easter Parade

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates
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's review
Apr 16, 2008

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bookshelves: ficciones

I’m not sure what Yates was up to in two-thirds of The Easter Parade. He certainly wasn’t playing to his strength—that is, the deep, layered scene: the slow death of a party; the waning of an afternoon buzz; the polite prolongation of a tense visit; lives told in gesture; and dialogue so perfect you see speakers without description. Two of the novel’s three Parts flash by in what biographer Blake Bailey, I see, grandly dubs “summary narration” which, he goes on to plead, “serves the larger purpose of emphasizing the characters’ helplessness, as if things were happening to them, suddenly, but with a terrible logic.” That’s bullshit. “Summary narration” = phoning it in. Narration so summary means thin, watery prose, a sketched outline of events rather than patient portrayal, and merely nominal protagonists. In the especially weak middle section I wondered if the dimming of Yates’s reputation, from the 1960s on, wasn’t, you know, deserved. It’s that bad. But not for long. The guy can write. When he’s at his best—and he’s at his best in the psych wards and cemeteries and mildewy kitchens of Part Three—Bellow and Updike mean nothing to me. Nothing. I thought of Yates the other day, when a skimmed article on US-sponsored massacres of Guatemalans yielded up some Sartre: “A victory described in detail is indistinguishable from a defeat.” Yates sees you at your most triumphant and glamorous and rewarded and all he notes is a jerky shamble of awkwardness, a coarse patchwork of illusions—after Sarah Grimes’ wedding, her father “kept mostly to himself at the party; he stood nursing a scotch, ready to smile at Sarah whenever she smiled at him”—and oh shit, you better not let him see you gulping down screwdrivers on the couch, or witness the congress of louts that gathers to drink after your funeral. We’re all doomed!

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Reading Progress

April 16, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
February 1, 2011 – Finished Reading
February 8, 2011 – Shelved as: ficciones

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Miriam (last edited Feb 08, 2011 03:06PM) (new)

Miriam I don't care who sees me gulping down screwdrivers.
Especially if we're all doomed.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

If we are all doomed, I'm sticking to Gammel Dansk. You can have my screwdrivers.

Eric Elizabeth wrote Yeah, that's what I like to take away from a book, "we're all doomed." :-)

Haha! Admittedly, I'm weird.

Eric But it is the strangest thing. Yates should be unreadably depressing. But I find his precision and clarity inspiring . It would be hard to find a writer more formally unlike Joyce, but both have this attention to squalor that somehow mounts into realms of humanism and love. If that makes any sense...

Eric I've read the early stories, in Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, but haven't cracked the later ones.

message 6: by Miriam (last edited Sep 18, 2011 04:20PM) (new)

Miriam Ceridwen said: If we are all doomed, I'm sticking to Gammel Dansk.

I finally encountered this Gammal Dansk of which you speak, in a fancy import grocer where I was buying Vranac and Marzenbier sausages for the boyfriend. Unfortunately it was too expensive for me to take a flyer on, especially since the Fine Booze staffperson (who didn't look old enough to drink himself) compared it to bitters and Pernod, neither of which I love.

message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 18, 2011 08:49PM) (new)

Wait, you found Gammel Dansk on sale in the states? There was some kind of international shenanigans involving the sale of Gammel Dansk to a Swedish company - gasp, right? - and something got all screwed up with the importation. My family has been eking by with bottles gifted from visiting Danish relatives, which doesn't happen as often as you might imagine. Or, you know, it might happen just as often as you imagine. Anyway, yes, Gammel Dansk is pretty nasty. It means Old Dane, and it tastes like one: anise, wormwood, an end-note of citrus. I like it better than Cherry Heering, as far as Danish national drinks go. Blech, no cloy for me.

message 8: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I don't care for Cherry Heering at all, much too sticky sweet. I like aquavit, though, and that cheese that has aquavit in it.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Mmm, that's good. And port cheeses. I like that there are so many kinds of aquavit. I have this crazy decanter called a klunke flaske, made for aquavit, that is designed to glug loudly when you pour. I love when foods get their own dishes.

message 10: by Miriam (new)

Miriam "Glug" can be a very appealing noise.

Right now I have some cheddar made with Irish whiskey; it is pretty good but not as integrated as the aquavit cheese.

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Miriam wrote: ""Glug" can be a very appealing noise."

Or a very appealing drink! Though sometimes it is spelled glögg just to mix it up. Also, to look more heavy metal and boss.

message 12: by Eric (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric I have this crazy decanter called a klunke flaske, made for aquavit, that is designed to glug loudly when you pour.

I want!

Right now I have some cheddar made with Irish whiskey

I want!

message 13: by Miriam (last edited Sep 19, 2011 10:26AM) (new)

Miriam Glögg is essentially the same as Glühwein, right? I would not have survived winter in Munich without Glühwein.

Eric, I don't have a klunke flaske to offer you, but there is plenty of wine and cheeses if you or Ceridwen want to visit! Too many, actually... I got a little carried away at the artisan market over the weekend.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Remind me to show it to you next I see you, Eric. It's pretty, but I can't store alcohol in it because I suspect it's leaded glass so I forget about it.

Looks like Glühwein, from the google. Or wassail or the other names mulled wine goes by. Glug has hard alcohol in it too, though I don't know what kind. Mum always makes it for Christmas.

message 15: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Yeah, Glühwein is normally just wine, but at the Christkindlmarkts they have variations with different spirits or juices added.

message 16: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee I disagree re: summary narration - I actually sort of love it, especially in this book covering so much time, but otherwise great review!

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