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So, Primary Colors, only for real.


I'm not sure I agree with Bailey that The Easter Parade is Yates' masterpiece - I would argue that the general opinion that Revolutionary Road is Yates' best work is correct.

One thing is that Yates had extremely fine taste in writing (if you read Bailey's book, Yates' discrimination in writing definitely did NOT extend to any other art form). I've been using Yates' Ploughshares interview as my guide to underappreciated American literature for several years, and Yates has not let me down. Almost everything he recommends in that interview is amazing, and you come away from the books Yates recommends wondering why this or that writer isn't vastly better known. Seymour Epstein's Leah, for example. Gina Berriault.

minstrel hussain boy

as a musician i have often confronted the dilemma of how some of the most miserable human beings i have ever met were capable of producing sublime art.

there are those rare ones. the folks who really are exceptional human beings that find themselves blessed with a great talent. however, without a healthy dose of dysfunctional obsession the chances of them reaching the stratas accessible to the half mad are slim.

writers are much the same. during my years of haunting the studio scene in hollywood i found myself hanging out more with writers than with other musicians. there wasn't that whole forced to talk shop thing that gatherings of musicians inevitably turned into, yet, the writers understood that whole thing of the creative process where we would be walking into a situation where there was nothing, and our task was to turn it into something.

i adore yates writings. i'm sorry that he was so unhappy. depressives and drug and alcohol abusers are well represented in my end of the arts. i've known a few of them who chose to go ahead and die in their addictions rather than face a life without art.

Kevin M

Ah, college--what we didn't know! Crossroads was an Emerson College hangout when the school had dorms down at the end of the block, and I spent a good deal of time there as an undergrad while Yates occupied his booth. I knew who he was but never dreamed of approaching him; he clearly wanted to be left alone. The wonder is that he put up with all the racket we all made, screwing around, getting drunk, throwing pretzel nuggets into each other's beer. I finally met him at the Boston Book Festival in, I believe, 1982. He'd stopped by the Ploughshares table, where I was malingering, to speak to DeWitt Henry. I found myself awestruck in a way I'd never been at Crossroads. As soon as Yates walked away, DeWitt quickly handed me a copy of the current issue, which had a story of his in it ("A Compassionate Leave," I think), and said, "Go have him sign it," and I gave chase. Yates was clearly very pleased to be asked--I had the impression he was unused to even this meager attention. A wise move on DeWitt's part--a kindness to me as well as to Yates, though I clearly got the better of the deal. . . . And, yeah, Bailey's book is terrific.

Kit Stolz

I can understand why you wouldn't want to read a long book about Cheever, but can report that Bailey's biography nonetheless makes for fascinating reading...because, I think, a great deal of Cheever's art is about storytelling itself. Cheever had a unique ability to take the raw materials of a shitty life and turn it into something fabulous (literally). Updike commented that you could not be in his presence for more than five minutes without seeing stories take shape in the air as he talked. This makes the gap between his lousy personality and his great stories all the more intriguing.

Ian Welsh

Never met him, never read him, but I can see him in my eye, and I've known him.

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