The Best Writer You Never Heard Of

Richard Yates was a fine writer, an exemplar of the postwar ennui just under the surface of the booming 50’s economy. His work is sort of a precursor to the minimalism and tiny heartbreaks of Raymond Carver and others, but few have read his amazing books or short stories.

I got to know Yates when he was a visiting writer at the University of Alabama; I was still an undergraduate. He liked it there, and stayed until his death in 1992. By then, most of his work was out of print — the worst of all possible literary fates.

Just now — May, in fact — Holt has published his collected stories, which you should buy and read. Additionally, perhaps his finest novel is actually still in print: Revolutionary Road may break your heart, but it’s one of the finest novels I’ve read. William Styron called it a “deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic,” and Vonnegut referred to it as “The Great Gatsby of my time . . . one of the best books by a member of my generation.”

In any case: James Crumley has a fine rememberance in the Boston Review; a few months ago, Stewart O’Nan had a piece there as well. Don’t miss either. If that’s not enough, I’ve reposted an essay I wrote about him about six years ago.

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