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Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
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For the longest time I just wanted a family, kids, a decent job, and a happy life in suburbia. That was all I wanted. That's it. It seemed so simple, predictable, and reliable. It was my ideal image.

It seems that society has done a good job of putting that thought in everyone's head. The best thing for a young man is for him to go to college, get married, get a reliable job with a steady company, have babies (2 or 3, of course), make friends with neighbors, have birthday parties for the kids, do little cocktail parties with the adults. Then he needs to tell his kids to do the same thing. And the cycle continues.

That's "just what you do."

I know that mindset isn't as prevalent now as it was when this was written in the 50s. And I haven't a doubt that the aforementioned lifestyle was/is the best life for many people. No doubt at all.

I think the problem lies in rushing into that lifestyle, before really knowing what you're getting into, without really knowing your spouse, without even knowing who you are, and what you really want, and what would really be best for you. People get trapped and don't even know they're trapped; caught inside their anger, not even knowing what they're angry at. Trapped inside the jail that is their home, forced into a miserable life of their own choosing, not knowing why or how it got that way, and even more miserable about it for that very reason.

And it's scary for me, because a few bad roles of the die and I could have ended up like Frank-fucking-Wheeler.

And it's funny. That whole lifestyle. Especially the tedious details and what often becomes our self-obsessive thoughts. You know why it's funny? Because it's both ridiculous and real. So all the laughter this novel caused me was because shit, man: it's real. It's very real that most of us are this ridiculous; it's very real that we go through the motions each day unaware, petty, and self-absorbed; it's very real that the most "normal" among us are among the most insane. It's very real that a lot of people are living the ideal lifestyle and are fucking miserable.

And no matter our life situation, we're always hoping for more. That keeps a lot of us going. And we're all pretty fucking shallow too, aren't we? Yes. People die all the time, and we get over it. Yes. We. Do. And often quickly, I might add.

The word "timeless" probably gets thrown around too much. But this novel doesn't just seem timeless. And it doesn't just seem relevant today. It seems fucking instructive. Be careful what you wish for, and pay attention to who you are, and don't suck others dry, and don't suck yourself dry, and search for truth no matter how painful.

And we continue to be self-absorbed and ridiculous. We make our decisions based on what we think will bring us the most happiness, like life is a game of chess. And it is. And it goes on.

And I still want my reliable job and my white picket fence. And a pretty wife. And babies. 2 or 3 of them.

But you see, I'm crazy.
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Quotes Ben Liked

Richard Yates
“if you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.”
Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road


Reading Progress

01/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-40 of 40) (40 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben I hope Pat is okay with this!


message 2: by Matt (new)

Matt There is a great interview with Yates on ploughshares, but the site seems to be a little buggy at the moment.

Here is a story that is equal parts funny and sad:
http://www.pw.org/content/watching_se...



message 3: by RandomAnthony (last edited Dec 23, 2009 02:46AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

RandomAnthony Excellent review, Ben, although I didn't like this book much...five stars, really?

The best thing for a young man is for him to go to college, get married, get a reliable job with a steady company, have babies (2 or 3, of course), make friends with neighbors, have birthday parties for the kids, do little cocktail parties with the adults. Then he needs to tell his kids to do the same thing. And the cycle continues.

I'm afraid it's worse now, Ben. You're supposed to enjoy golf and barbecuing in khakis. But the kids can provide some revenge in that you can teach them to say "All golf is lame, except miniature golf" which will piss off your mother in law who will try to argue golf is a business skill, which will make you laugh and horrify you at the same time and cause you to try to influence your children in weird ways to balance away your mother-in-law's Revolutionary Roadness, like when you teach them to chant "Jeter sucks" (even if you have nothing against Jeter) during the all-star game or to say "Disneyworld is full of jackasses" when they get off the plane in Orlando. Or you can just move to Wisconsin, which will nearly send her over the edge in rage. Or maybe that's just me. But, anyway, you can also find other people via GR and the real world who are like you, or go inside during the backyard cocktail parties and sit in the dark. You're probably safer inside because your brother-in-law who had every advantage in the world might be explaining that the world is a "meritocracy" and Google should run the government despite the fact he never sees his kids and is as shallow as a puddle. You will want to punch him so get out quickly. Maybe turn on the Brewers game.

What was I trying to say? Don't remember. Good review!


Jessica Ben wrote: "I hope Pat is okay with this!"

Pat has not read the book.


message 5: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Nice horror story, RA.

I'm always the one sitting in the dark.

And Ben, there was a brief period in my life when I had every shallow detail worked out - neurosurgeon with a Mercedes 450SL with "NEURO" as a vanity plate, living in Boston, and a beautiful wife and kids was so deeply assumed I didn't even have to fantasize about them - but luckily that was all eroded by time and disillusionment. When I graduated college the thought of working in an office 9-5 filled me with horror, so I basically wandered around for a few years to eventually end up working in an office 9-5, only now I don't mind it! probably because my uncompromising self got so deeply ingrained it can now stand anything.

But I still think this book would terrify me.


message 6: by Chloe (new)

Chloe Eddie wrote: "...But I still think this book would terrify me. "

That's why I haven't read it yet either, Eddie. I'm saving it for when I really need a reminder as to what is important and what is just so much contrived bullshit. Fortunately I'm not needing any such reminders at this time.


message 7: by Ben (last edited Dec 23, 2009 07:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Great link, tadpole! Yates seems to be a mad genius of sorts, doesn't he?

Love your post, RA: made me laugh, and it looks like something Yates could write. I couldn't in good conscience give this less than 5-stars. It's too perfect on every level, from the timing and insight of the character point of views, to its accurate irony and frank, blunt, completely honest narration. I couldn't see any other book nailing down the same (important) messages so relentlessly through such clever, funny, and entertaining vehicles. And what a brilliant ending -- I mean, the very end -- not what would be considered the so-called climax. Pitch perfect.

Logan and Eddie: I'm sure I'll continue to get shaken up; as long as we look at life honestly, we'll continue to get surprised by it, I think. You guys married well, didn't ya? That seems damn important.


message 8: by Bram (last edited Dec 23, 2009 08:58AM) (new)

Bram Awesome review, Ben. I should read this.

Luckily, I've managed to avoid the movie. This falls into a genre and tone that I love in books but not so much in film. I look to the two media for different things, I guess.


Brad I can't add anything to what RA said. His words are my sentiments exactly. As is your review, Ben.


message 10: by Kimley (new)

Kimley I'm going to guess that RA is visiting family for the holidays.... Hysterical stuff!


message 11: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Beautifully aware. Thumbs up for review & msg#3.


RandomAnthony Kimley wrote: "I'm going to guess that RA is visiting family for the holidays.... Hysterical stuff!"

Ha, thanks, Kimley...no relatives this year...our scary weather has its benefits.

However, the fact my wife's family lives in Florida may bring eventually me into the orbit of the fine writer of this review.




message 13: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben We must make this happen!

Just remember: Disneyworld is full of jackasses.


message 14: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Great review. I saw the movie, but got a much more visceral reaction of the gloom in this tale from your review.


Jackie "the Librarian" This review hits a little too close to home to be comfortable. So much truth there.


message 16: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Ben, you reviewed this book like it meant something to you. If we could rate reviews I would give this one 5 stars! Good work.


message 17: by Ben (last edited Jan 09, 2010 05:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thank you, Stephen. Its effect on me was indeed heavy.


message 18: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick G Ben, did you see this movie yet? I've seen the movie but not read the book, although I picked it up at a booksale today.

If you have seen the movie by now, I want to ask to what degree they vary. Normally, I don't like to see a movie THEN read the book, but sometimes its still worth it (Simon Birch/Owen Meany).


message 19: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Hey Nick, I haven't seen the movie, but there's enough humorous, accurate insight in the book that I can't imagine the movie taking away from the reading experience to the point of it not being worth a try.


Sarah Hmm. I'm finding it pretty interesting how you compared yourself with Frank, and I was comparing myself with April. The reason I gave the book only 2 stars is because I didn't like April, and I didn't find her a "real" character. I kept wanting to have a chapter from her point of view, but I dont think Yates knows how to write women. I didn't find any of her motivations compelling or believable and I found myself just as bewildered by her as Frank was. I wonder if it's normal for men to like the book because of Frank and for women to dislike it because of April?


Michelle Ben, I loved your review! I loved this paragraph in particular:

I think the problem lies in rushing into that lifestyle, before really knowing what you're getting into, without really knowing your spouse, without even knowing who you are, and what you really want, and what would really be best for you. People get trapped and don't even know they're trapped; caught inside their anger, not even knowing what they're angry at. Trapped inside the jail that is their home, forced into a miserable life of their own choosing, not knowing why or how it got that way, and even more miserable about it for that very reason.

So true. True of Frank and April and true for a lot of people in the real world.


message 22: by Ben (last edited Feb 16, 2011 08:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thanks, Michelle! You've been wiser than most: you even get to work out of your house! As I sit here at work -- grumble, grumble...

Even so, I try to use this novel instructively; if only as a caution against the internal anger that can fester, and the knowledge of what it stems from.


Jessica I need to read it so I can weigh in on this polarizing book.

I've read only some short stoires of his so far, which I liked. He was surprisingly good writing about children, pre-adolescents.


message 24: by Ben (last edited Feb 16, 2011 08:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Yes! His short stories are awesome, Chairy. My personal favorite -- and his, as well -- is A Really Good Jazz Piano. He's dark, but he's frightingly real in his interpretation of human nature.


Jessica I'll look for that one. thanks.


message 26: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I've had this one sitting on my shelf forever, and I keep going back and forth on reading it or not. Re-reading this review reminded me why I bought it in the first place. Thanks, Ben! :)


Esteban del Mal Why didn't I vote for this one already? Argh!


Alanna Because of your review, I'll be picking up a copy in the next couple of days. I'm looking forward to reading it. I'll come back and let you know how it went.


message 29: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thanks, Alanna! Be sure to stop back and let me know.


message 30: by Mohit (new) - added it

Mohit Parikh Have you seen the movie? Brilliant.


message 31: by Xiaohe (new) - added it

Xiaohe I'll be picking this up at my library because of this review! Your words hit close to home. The part about rushing into a lifestyle without knowing what you're getting into--the problem is worsened when your own family and some friends are rushing you into a certain lifestyle, say get married and have kids--when I just turned 24 two months ago. Why the pressure?! Sigh.


Jessica I love this book.


message 33: by Vale (new) - rated it 5 stars

Vale great review!


Jessica yes! Ben, it's terrif.


Sandra Barron Your're not crazy. The key is to take time to see the WHOLE menu of options before ordering the meal. It's also about getting this meal when you're hungry for it and not before, not just because it's "time." Loved the review.


message 36: by Kate (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kate I wish I could copy and paste your post as my thoughts exactly. Well said.


Karen Medrano-rios Very well written review; I agree completely except for the 5 stars; I gave it 3. :)


Amber Ritchie I love this review. Travel the world, break the norm. If you want a white picket fence and a family, nothing wrong with that as well. I hope you realize and achieve.


message 39: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Very true! The novel stirred up that ambiguous, contradictory feeling in me as well. You want to be safe, and respectable, and HAPPY, and at the same time, you long for adventure and thrilling danger, knowing it will lead to pain. How does that work out? I read to have the best of both worlds :-)
Thanks for an insightful reflection on Revolutionary Road, one of the books that have stayed with me through different phases and turns in my life!


The.Faye Great review!


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