Revolutionary Road

revovlutionaryRevolutionary Road
by Richard Yates
1961 / 355 pages
rating – 8 (probably a 10 in 1961) – classic

I guess this is a classic now as it’s older than 50 years – I used to say a classic was older than I am, but there really does come a limit and I passed that marker more than a decade ago.

So here, in the tradition of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, The Winter of Our Discontent and The Recognitions  – Revolutionary Road is about the conformity, disillusion and decay of America and its males in the late 1950’s or early ’60’s. Sloan Wilson, John Steinbeck, William Gaddis, John Cheever and Richard Yates were all so dissatisfied with something about America, their jobs, the flighty women (and there is a lot of sexism by 21st century standards),  the religious hang-ups,  whatever. Their heroes wanted to escape.

I was a 13 year-old Minnesota girl when this book came out and being a rather precocious child, I wanted to be in Greenwich Village wearing a single braid and black leotards under a short shapeless dress reading my own poetry against the bomb and conformity. Yes, I wrote some.   I tried to read the Steinbeck then, among others – I could read them, but comprehension of marital issues was quite another matter.

As an adult I’ve not really enjoyed any of those books – the disgust these authors apparently feel is really depressing and it annoys me. At times I feel like I’ve been there, done that – ho-hum. Otoh, some of the writing is nice, when the author is not trying too hard to be “relevant,” or “lost.”

Anyway, re Revolutionary Road, Frank and April Wheeler live on the eponymous Revolutionary Road with their two children – he works in Sales and Promotions while she is a tries to content herself with homemaking.  Their names are totally out of sync with their personalities. Americana to the max- just a bit more artsy due to their backgrounds.

He hates his job, she despises her community and resents their children.  April decides and Frank agrees, that they are so “special” they should just chuck it all and go live and work in Paris where they can “find themselves.”  Their neighbors and coworkers respond in different ways to this, generally envious, but not entirely.

So that’s half of the fairly long book. There’s lots of martini drinking and cigarette stuff to make it realistic… Realism seems to be very important to these writers and their novels, a kind of late naturalist realism, maybe.

Think also “the Graduate” and plastics instead of computers – 1961

imagined conversations – dreams? American dream?

$3000 in 61 is 23556 in 2014<

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