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A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates
BLAKE BAILEY

A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey
30 reviews (2003) (688p)
National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography Finalist

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Book Description
Celebrated in his prime, forgotten in his final years, only to be championed anew by our greatest contemporary authors, Richard Yates has always exposed readers to the unsettling hypocrisies of our modern age. In Blake Bailey's masterful and entertaining biography, Yates himself serves as the fascinating lens into mid-century America, a world of would-be artists, depressed housewives, addled businessmen, high living, wistful striving, and self-deception. The story of Richard Yates here stands as a singular reminder of what the writer must sacrifice for his craft, the devil's bargain of artistry for happiness, praise for sanity.


Amazon.com Review
Richard Yates worked his way down from the top. His brilliantly pitiless 1961 classic about exploded '50s suburban dreams, Revolutionary Road, made him a peer of Cheever and Updike (though Natalie Wood broke his heart by scuttling the movie version). William Styron got him a gig writing civil rights speeches for Bobby Kennedy: "He used RFK s a ventriloquist's dummy," says Kurt Vonnegut, who, like Yates's future employer, David (NYPD Blue) Milch, met him at the celebrated Iowa writing program. Yates's dark gift casts a colossal shadow enriching our culture: he was a profound influence on Richard Ford, Mary Robison, Ann Beattie, and the Minimalist literary movement. He also inspired the "Alton Benes" Seinfeld episode (his daughter, who apparently shares her dad's mordant wit, helped inspire the character Elaine). Blake Bailey soberly records Yates's rather stylishly bleak spiral from fame into drunkenness and self-imposed obscurity, despite the loyalty of his famous friends. He drunkenly set fire to his beard, succumbed to writer's block and delusions that he'd killed JFK, heedlessly and needlessly alienated even people he admired. But one reason he died poor, with the manuscript of his RFK novel, Uncertain Times in his freezer, was precisely his gift: an honesty that ranks with the greatest of tragedians. --Tim Appelo


Other Award Winning Books by Blake Bailey
John Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey
43 reviews (2009) (784p) (PP Bio) (NBCCA Bio) (TIME Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Blake Bailey Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 3  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 2  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 1 John Cheever: A Life ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 1 John Cheever: A Life ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 2 A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates · John Cheever: A Life ·  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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Pulitzer Prize | National Book Critics Circle Award | National Book Award | PEN/Faulkner Award | Man Booker Prize | Contact