marginalia || Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, by Richard Yates

<3 #01 – About two stories into the short story collection Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, by Richard Yates, I decided that it would catapult me to the happy place of all happy places if I read the entire body of his known work. (Quite ironically, yes, I’m aware; “happy place” and Yates aren’t your usual snuggly pairing.) So that’s seven novels, two short story collections, and a posthumous Collected Stories (which includes his, uh, previously uncollected short stories). Ten Kinds of Loneliness, if you allow me. Oh, you don’t? Oh.

<3 #02 – Goodness, I do think I’m fatally in love with Richard Yates. I recognize how unfortunate that is, of course. In his universe, there’s never anything nice in store for people who claim they’re in love, fatally or otherwise. Still. There’s such a strange affection I have for this writer, him with his “misogynistic” worldview. I’ve once wondered, and scribbled down, Does Yates hate people? But no, I don’t think he does. He’s just pragmatic. Conscious of the reality that governs disappointed people, or dreamers who refuse to admit they’re disappointed. And he has this terse grasp on sentimentality and defeat, and, yes, loneliness. All those syllables really just aim to mean YOU ARE AWESOMEZ RICHARD IF YOU WERE STILL ALIVE AND MARGINALLY FRIENDLY I WOULD HUG YOU.

<3 #03 – There are eleven stories in Eleven Kinds of Loneliness. That might look pretty obvious to you, but I was at the fifth story when i realized this. Math has never been my strong point; this is why I use such long words. Anyhoo. Those eleven stories are Petri dishes on what it means to be a resigned human being, one who dreams too big, one who dreams too small, one who really has no reason to dream at all.

What impresses me about the stories is, well, I never got frustrated over these people’s resignations. Why not? Well, maybe because they’re blissfully aware that they’re disappointed people.  Instead of whiny widdle wankers, these people are, well–they’re lonely, going through a life that is oftentimes heartbreaking (then heart-numbing) in its normalcy. I’ve always been a sucker for these secret heartaches kind of shiz.

<3 #04 – One of my favorite stories of the collection is “The Best of Everything”–it’s a story that vividly captures the hurt we cause by our ignorance, our self-absorption (because, after all, we need to find ways to keep us happy, right?) Here we have a just-about-to-be-bride settling with a marriage she knows–and has accepted–will never make her happy. You almost hear her dismissal: But what’s happiness anyway? There’s this heartbreaking scene where she’s stripped (in more ways than one), and there’s just a lot of ignoring going on, and a lot of goddamned painjesus. And at the end of the story, you know that she’s still going to marry him, and this scene will probably rehashed for years and years, because, you know, what is happiness anyway?

<3 #05 – Yates’ world is fraught with people who are rife with–as one of my Philosophy teachers would put it, thumping a dogeared copy of Foucault–rife with dissatisFACtion. These are people jaded by the war and all that has happened post-war, these are people who’ve settled, because they can’t envision any other option. These are people who grit their teeth through the pain, all that unbelievable pain–and Yates gives you all this in such a calm, so goddamned all-knowing manner, that, for some odd reason only the Big Kahuna may be privvy to, you keep reading, you keep suffering along with these people–and then, suddenly, you find yourself spectators, at the fringes, looking on.

There’s never any pity in Yates Universe.

Then again, who’s to say no one is looking on our settled little lives?

* * * Here’s more shameless fangirly-ness over Yates, for his novel Revolutionary Road. (Do I read into it that I read RR at the height of a storm, one that blasted the power from cities for hours? That I read this shiz by candlelight? Oh, I do think Yates would be disgusted by me, haha. Then again, he always goes for the then-idealistic ones, no?)

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6 comments

  1. I need to read this person.

    1. He’s gruff and macho and lonely. Heart. Start with his novel Revolutionary Road. It tends to be a litmus test. :p

    2. Dude. I put up the RICHARD YATES READING CHALLENGE for 2010! I’m hosting! http://silverfysh.wordpress.com/richard-yates-reading-challenge/ Thought you might be interested. :) JOIN ME.

  2. I really must read more Yates. Easter Parade was tremendous. Bleak as can be, but amazing.

    1. I love that description — “Bleak as can be, but amazing.” That’s our boy Richard for you. :)

  3. […] read Liars in Love about an hour after I read Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, because I couldn’t help it. Seven short stories, each of them kick-ass. That’s as much an […]

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