Posted by: zhiv | December 12, 2008

Revolutionary Road: Graduate Student Makes Good

Anybody up for a holiday blogging/academic success story, complete with New York and East Coast settings and movie stars and Richard Yates and his family and his masterpiece, a heart-warming tale with a plucky heroine?

KCJ, or “kateonyates,” formerly “viewfrommywindow,” is a teacher in England somewhere who is writing a dissertation on the work of Richard Yates.  She stumbled on zhiv and has made many kind comments on the substantial nothings about Yates and his work that are to be found here.  The old maxim, “if you can’t teach, coach gym” might be updated in this case to “if you can’t be an academic, blog and push genuine academics to be aggressive in ways that you would never be.”  I pushed KCJ to blog about her notes and thoughts, and after a false start, prompted her to get her expertise out from under the bushel where she was keeping it hidden.  So  her dusty Yates archive Boston trip was transformed into a series of amusing adventures, including an Emerson College seminar and night out in Boston with Yates’s Ploughshares publisher, interviewer, and friend DeWitt Henry; a gossipy seaside session with Yates’s biographer, Blake Bailey; and finally a nervous night out at a screening in the Big City, with boots, botox, Kate on Kate, a few quick comments on the film, and telling the director that he fucked up the last shot of his movie.

All very enjoyable, especially for those who are Yates readers and literary folk first, and a little less than comfortable hanging out with the Hollywood crowd.  She does need to tell us, however, who will play her in the short film of this episode–we have a few ideas, but wouldn’t presume to guess.


  1. Well, I didn’t exactly say he’d fucked up but I just couldn’t bear to be as sycophantic as all those around him had been during the evening….you know all that, ‘Oh, Sam , it was wonderful’ and ‘This is the best thing you’ve done and a natural successor to American Beauty’ – all that stuff made me feel so uncomfortable. Even so, polteness kicks in and you don’t want to burst a balloon. I did think it was very good but what Yates does (which the film doesn’t) is make all its hard-hitting criticisms with a subtle, but nevertheless apparent, humour… that is hard to translate to film and they don’t even try as far as I can see.

    The thing is that everything Yates wrote is so multi-layered and film captures only one layer. How can film compete with the book in that respect? A figure like John Givings, implicitly criticised and applauded in the novel, is hard-edged in the film and defined in ways that preclude the ambiguity of his role in the book. While Michael Shannon gives a brilliant performance, it left me dissatisfied because it made decisions about who he was and how he functions that Yates wants, deliberately, to be the active choice of the reader. Perhaps it was just me.

  2. So have you watched the film yet, zhiv? (Apologies for my spelling error in the above comment) I am dying to know your opinion.

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