When the name Richard Yates is mentioned, many may jump to the depressing, yet beautifully written Revolutionary Road. Unfortunately, Yates’ name is also the title of Tao Lin’s latest novel.
Richard Yates (2010, Melville House) follows an odd “couple” who met online via Gmail chat, as they try to make their strange relationship work regardless of the distance and the age difference. Though this may seem like an everyday, easy to comprehend plot, Lin’s writing style makes it difficult for readers to summon their effort to turn to the next page.
Those who manage to plow through the first page of awkward dialogue are introduced to the two main characters, Haley Joel Osment, and Dakota Fanning. They lack any real qualities or traits to make them even remotely interesting, leaving them only their perpetual depression that seeps into every statement they make.
Knowing this, their “relationship” seems to be more of an unhealthy support system, where one feeds off of the others’ misery. Throughout the novel, the reader is forced to plow through their nonsensical banter hoping to find enjoyment somewhere along the way. Unfortunately, Lin makes that difficult too, as his clinically depressed characters find any way possible to slip in jokes about suicide, which makes their interaction uncomfortable to read. They also manage to threaten one another, which only makes the story progress even more awkwardly, as each threat in a sense brings them closer together.
Though “closer” isn’t exactly what many may call it. They continued to have strange forced conversations, meet each other and suddenly wish to be far away from each other, then proceed to have sex.
At the conclusion of the novel, readers are left with the same sparse detail and lack of enthusiasm that the story began with, making all of the events blur together as if the whole thing was merely a bad dream. A good book should make a reader yearn for more even after the last page. When reading Richard Yates, readers are left with the desire to tuck the book away and forget that it ever existed.