I once worked as a busboy at a little bar in South Miami called Fox's Sherron Inn. The place has been around since the 40s, and in the interior has the ambiance of a cave and a speakeasy. I met a writer there once who highly recommended Raymond Carver. So I ran to the bookstore and bought "Will You Please be Quiet, Please?"; Carver's first short story collection that came out sometime in the 70s. But anyway, this writer, who shall remain nameless, advised me to read a particular short story in the collection called Nobody Said Anything. I was young and stupid and I didn't really like the story or get the ending. To me, at that time, Carver came off as a boring Hemingway. Or Hemingway if he'd stayed in the USA. The prose was very similar to Hemingway but I didn't real care about the characters. Let's face it, most of the characters in Carver's stories are has-been people, victims of poor uninspired living, jealous people, sad married couples; beat down folks basically. As I grew older, my opinion changed. I can more clearly see Chekhov over Carver's shoulder's now. But it was mostly living that made me appreciate Carver 's stories more. It's also scare to think how Carver belongs more to say, a Bukowski kind of writing than Updike or any contemporary of that time. Yep, Minimalism was what they called it and there were a bunch of them. So I was reading Stephen King's review of Carol Sklenicka's biography Raymond Carver: A writer's Life. ( And was it ever!) King mostly focuses on the fact that Carver was an asshole, and an alcoholic. Then he talks about how Carver's editor at Esquire heavily edited most of his stories. King even gives a couple of examples to show how Carver's stories would have been better without the editing. That with the editing they lost their heart. Despite, that, King still gives Gordon Lish some credit. So my question is, so how did Carver become known as such a great writer? So without Gordon Lish's editing, would he have been greater? The point that King is making is that Lish made the stories darker. He cut out the heart in them. Pretty fucked up. I can see King's point, but then would we even be talking about Carver if Lish hadn't edited him? Would his books be as popular? Who the fuck knows. There is a new compilation of Carver's stories that is coming out, before the traumatic editing. So I guess we shall see. Either way, it's funny how Raymond Carver came back into my life this last week without me even thinking about it. I just picked up his book and started rereading those stories that left me unimpressed so long ago and I found myself captivated by every word and coma. What to do know? Which Carver to love? The Post Lish or the pre Lish??? Who the hell knows. I guess, perhaps, sometimes it's better for a writer to remain a ghost as long as he can before being truly discovered. Isn't funny how important that first contact a writer makes with an editor or publisher is?? Your whole future depends on someone believing in you. And if they think you should write a certain way, well, most writers will probably agree, specially if they're just starting out. So I call on writers to not seek fame or publishing, but just simply write. Go to a cave and write.
Well I finished Revolutionary road. So here is my rant, I mean review. This will be spoiler heavy so if you haven't watched the movie or read the book, please skip this post. I had a day to think about the book which I finished reading last night. It took me about three weeks, and it's even a faster read than that but like I said before I wanted to savour it. There are pages that scream to be reread. And if you love words and sentences like me, well you'll find some good ones. I'm basically going to just concentrate on one thing about the book because I've gone online and read some stuff where they compare this book to stuff by Updike, which is pretty laughable. It's like comparing books because they are set on earth. And I've also read that it's feminist statement, specially the movie.
There is no such thing as that in the book. There is no feminism agenda by Yates or any great literary statement against the suburbs. I think he did want to write something against the lust for crap that we have and the lust for a meaningless life in a little pink house. Grant it, there is some of that, but that's not what the book is about. The book, or his theme, is simply loneliness and just being honest with yourself when you are confronted with a constantly unhappy life. Let's face it, no one is happy all the time. Life is not perfect, and you need the sad to appreciate the happy.
But this book goes deeper than that. It's about constantly making the wrong decisions in your life because of circumstance, ignorance, and just plain fear. The book is about a woman that realizes, after three pregnancies that she does not love her husband. And the husband, Frank, who has nothing else to show for his life except that woman. And that's it. April Wheeler doesn't really die at the end, it's Frank Wheeler that dies. And even Shep Campbell wakes up. The rest of the characters remain dead.
April Wheeler's decision to try to abort the baby late, is basically the only possible choice she had because it was the only honest one.
When John Givings tells her that he feels sorry for that baby, that's when she realizes what she must do. It is the only thing she can do. And it has nothing to do with a woman being bored of being in the kitchen and just having babies.
It's really about April not knowing who she is. And that was not it. When she convinces Frank to go to Paris, and she tells him that she will work while he discovers his true vocation or whatever, that's not true. She is actually talking about herself. She's the one that wants to go to Paris and discover herself. By this time, all she is seeking is support from her husband.
Think about it. She meets him at a party and he tells her a bunch of shit about being worldly and knowing French, (pretty much what most guys would do) and she falls for it. But by the time she hears him talking to the Campbells in their living room about how American society sucks and the suburbs suck, and yada, yada....she realizes that she has come into a turning point in her relationship with Frank. He basically needs to put up or shut up. So the big test she throws at him, which she is totally willing to go for, because she truly embodies the revolutionary spirit that America was based on, is going to Europe. And of course he goes along with it for a little bit. But you can be sure, that if she wouldn't have gotten pregnant he would have found an excuse. That's why when John Givings(the loony from the insane asylum and the givings son who come by to visit the Wheelers on Sundays) tells them that, ironically, don't people have babies in Europe? He totally hits the nail in the head. April needed that extra boost in order for her to realize, that her husband is a fraud. And it wasn't only his fault, but it was her fault as well. So her decision doesn't have anything to do with family life, or suburbs, or her pregnancy, it has to do with the fact that for all this time she had lived a life where she continuously fooled herself. Going through with the abortion was the only honest thing she could do. That was her revolution, that was her chance to say that she was special after all, and she wasn't afraid of facing her own mistakes and doing something about it.
And Frank, well, as Shep puts it, he continues a life of denial. The thing about Frank is that he was never extraordinary. He was fooling himself more than April and he was a coward. He liked to pretend like he was an intellectual but he didn't even read any books. His arguments were great exercises in speech and acting and pretending like he knew what was best, but in reality he didn't know his head from his ass.
What's really sad about the book is that there are people just like the Wheelers, or more like Frank. Who walk around thinking they are special, and that something great is going to happen to them and that someday they'll be famous for something. It's BS. It's just like that Ayn Rand crap. A cultist just like the Scientologists. Look at me, I am special, I don't have to suffer, life will be great because I am great. That's not the way the world works. We don't choose who our parents are. But don't get me wrong, I'm not saying confidence is evil or anything. But empty self esteem is like a balloon full of holes. If you are good at something you work hard at it and you earn it. Nothing is given to you. The only thing Frank Wheeler ever got in this world is April Wheeler, a pretty girl. So he made his world this pretty girl, because he was either too lazy or because he thought he was special and the rest will come eventually. That is so sad. You can't make a woman your world or a man or whoever your with. Frank loved April, but April did not love Frank, and she didn't realize this until it was too late. In the end, the message, is don't lie to yourself. Be genuine, be humbled, have fun. Be happy. No delusions please. Revolutionary Road is about as perfect as a book can be. Highly recommend it.
This is my first Richard Yates book. And so far so good. There are some brilliant lines in this bad boy. The kind of prose that will make you reread entire pages, to fully savour the poetry. Tao Lin and Noah Cicero are big Richard Yates fans. And Tao Lin is gonna be releasing his novel, "Richard Yates" this year I believe which I can't wait to read. So I decided to stop dragging my feet and finally read him. After Revolutionary Road, I plan reading The Easter Parade and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.
I will let you know how it went.
FYI...2666 by Roberto Bolano gets an A- from me. I really think it's that good. I will write more about it later.