1961 was quite a year for books.
In that year, Walker Percy released The Moviegoer, Joseph Heller released Catch 22, and Richard Yates released Revolutionary Road.
All three books were finalists for the 1962 National Book Award, which The Moviegoer eventually won.
Fifty years later, all three of these incredible novels celebrate their golden anniversary. Jim Santel from The Millions recently discussed how these three books—but mainly The Moviegoer—affected him.
Have you ever wanted to reach through the pages of a book, grab a character by the neck, and verbally abuse that character with your darts of intellectual and moral wisdom?
April Wheeler might be one of the most complicated, perplexing, frustrating characters I’ve ever encountered in a novel. She’s selfish, egocentric, manipulative, lazy, cynical, hateful, and all sorts of other negative adjectives that I don’t have time to list. Her husband, Frank, is no saint. He has his share of issues—most notably, his inclination to cheat on his wife.
But Richard Yates writes these two characters in Revolutionary Road in such a way that I found myself totally pulled into the drama of Frank and April Wheeler.
The story is all about these two people—the Wheelers—as they cope with life as a young couple in the post-War 1950s, with two kids, living in the sameness of suburban America, and struggling to find meaning to their lives.
One of the aspects of fiction I love, and one of the reasons I began to prefer fiction to nonfiction, is the emotional intelligence I gain by watching the lives of these characters and relating them to my own life.
After all, these characters and stories were written by authors who have experienced life, dealt with their own issues, and have more than likely put pen to paper to help cope and understand.
As a new parent, I’m always interested in reading about parental roles in the novels. With the exception of Atticus Finch, some of the parents in the first 25 books have been pretty below average in the old parenting skills department. Think about the Lamberts from The Corrections or the Angstroms in Rabbit, Run.
The newest crappy parents are Frank and April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road. These two are, perhaps, the most selfish individuals in the history of fiction.
Why do I ask such a strange question?
Well, you might know that I’m currently reading Revolutionary Road–and, if the movie is any indication, this will be one of the more depressing reads on the list to this point.
I’ve seen comments before on this blog, like “I didn’t like that book because it was too depressing.” But the more I read through the list, the more I realize that if I can qualify a book as “depressing,” that’s a good indication it’s probably a well-written, excellent novel. That simply means the author is doing his or her job, evoking strong emotions in me as the reader.
My familiarity with Revolutionary Road comes strictly from Sam Mendes’ 2008 movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet. Sadly, I know very little about Richard Yates, so this novel will be another learning experience for me.
I’ll be interested to see how it compares to the screenplay, which was dark and depressing, and didn’t inspire me with much hope. I also remember appreciating how forward the movie was with the realistic consequences, both physical and emotional, of bad decisions.The story revolves around a middle-class, suburbanite couple and their pursuit of the American Dream in exchange for their own identity.
The challenge here is to read Frank Wheeler’s lines in this book and not hear Dicaprio speaking. We’ll see how it goes.
A few quick facts about Revolutionary Road.
Here are your choices.
So the photo above displays the next five books (#24-28) I’ll be reading from the Time list. Today, you tell me which one to read first.
Here are the choices: